|I am a determined supporter of Gloria
Lemay. I find it dismaying to the extreme that registered BC
midwives would so grossly misunderstand what her practice
means to women who do not desire the presence of a
registered midwife at their births. I have not found Ms.
Lemay to be a "healthcare professional" in the sense used in
your responses. I believe that she is a birth attendant
whose first and foremost desire is to follow the wishes of
the client and assist her as she births.
She brings no
belief that birth must be managed or that it is an illness
of any kind. With this in mind, clients are well informed as
to their choices, and this includes the use of Vitamin K or
any other substance. Both of the responses [Issue 4:5] seem
to indicate that if Ms. Lemay's clients were informed they
would, of course, choose Vit K for their infants. This is
far from the truth. And this is exactly the kind of belief
system that drives birthing women away from registered
midwives. Well-informed women choose to birth in a safe
atmosphere, one in which they are safe not only from
management by a health professional but one in which their
choices are clearly respected. The midwife who presupposes
that a client who chooses not to give Vitamin K to her
infant is ignorant of the facts is exactly the midwife I do
not want near me as I birth. So to whom do I go? In BC there
seems to be only the way legislated by the government with
no room for my personal, informed choice.
I am spending more and more time with women who have
birthed with registered midwives and for subsequent births
seek an alternative.
Their choice is based not on a dislike of registered
midwives, but simply on the realization that registered
midwifery has not provided the care they desired. Many of
these women, in the absence of a traditional birth
attendant, are choosing unassisted birth instead - a
glorious choice for some, being forced into a corner for
others. It is sad indeed that the BC College of Midwives is
working so hard to eliminate choice of attendant for women
like these. It is a shame that the very institution and its
members who proposed to provide gentle, respectful care to
birthing women should so quickly decide that only they are
capable of providing it whether the birthing family agrees
or not. There was a time when we all were united in working
with families for joyful birth. It appears that time has
It concerns me that some BC midwives are questioning if
Gloria Lemay is, indeed, "offering informed decision-making
to her clients." I'm quite certain she is. I would imagine
that women who choose Ms. Lemay do a lot of decision-making
before they even become pregnant. As we all know, there is
huge variety regarding what women desire from a caregiver.
There are many wise, educated women who choose to believe
that whichever course nature takes is the right one; they
accept the challenges and conceive, grow, deliver, and raise
their children on their own, in their way, finding guided
support and professional assistance where and when they need
it. These kinds of women need to have the option of being
attended by women like Gloria Lemay. This is the real issue.
If women are choosing to be cared for by Gloria, then
Gloria's services are wonderful and necessary.
-Searching for someone like her in Ontario
Midwifery Today E News (click to view)
February 6, 2002
Volume 4, Issue 6
WHY ARE BC GRANDMOTHERS FACING JAIL?
Homebirth Assoc. of BC Press Release
Another BC grandmother is looking at a possible jail term this
month (April 2002).
Awaiting her day in court is 54 year old Gloria Lemay, found guilty of helping women to have babies. Seventy-three year old great grandmother Betty
Krawczyk has only recently been released; her jail term was for saving ancient trees in the Elaho valley.
Gloria has been a traditional birth attendant for 23 years, providing B.C. families with support before, during and after birth. She was found guilty
of breaking an injunction that banned her from practicing as a midwife. The injunction was brought by the newly formed BC College of Midwives, which
she had declined to join when it was formed to govern midwives in 1998.
Gloria said "The writing was on the wall when the College of Midwives rented space for their office at B.C. Women's Hospital-midwifery, once a strong
alternative to conventional practice, would be taken over and medicalized. I never dreamed that midwives would agree to such regulation by doctors in
order to keep the peace and earn a salary."
For her efforts to make a difference, Betty was sentenced in 2000 after she broke an injunction banning the blockade of a logging road into the
untouched old forests of the upper Elaho Valley. The courts decided to set an example to other protestors and jailed her. She was 72 and had eight
grandchildren at the time. "We must fight this government's attempt to control people by charging them with contempt of court." said Betty. "Once
you are charged with contempt of court, you are in a black hole without any of the protection the legal system provides for criminal charges.
Government by injunction is a cowardly tactic used against protestors or anyone who disagrees with those in power".
Gloria and Betty are the latest in a long line of Canadian women who have stood for unpopular causes while society grappled with rights and freedoms.
In the early 1900s, Canadian women did not have the right to vote and activism was necessary to gain voting rights by 1925. In 1936 Dorothea
Palmer, a nurse in Ottawa, was charged with distributing birth control to women in defiance of federal law. In the 1950s,
grandmothers from the Sons of Freedom Doukhobours in Grand Forks, B.C., claimed their right to
home school their children. They burned down the government schools that would destroy their culture and identity and were imprisoned for their actions. The right of parents to
home school their children took many years of struggle to establish.
Today, these freedoms are taken for granted and if a government suggested their reversal, it would be the object of worldwide condemnation. Gloria
says "Throwing off the shackles of state control over our bodies has been a 100 year struggle for Canadian women. Women can be trusted to make better
choices for themselves and their families than the 'parental' bureaucracy that means so well but cannot live in the woman's skin." What is at issue
in her case is the right of women to choose a birth attendant outside the government -regulated system when they give birth at home.