More than 30 supporters of Quadra Island traditional birth attendant Moreka Jolar protested Tuesday outside the Vancouver offices of the BC College of Midwives.
The college has been conducting an investigation into Jolar for allegedly illegally doing the work of a midwife while claiming to be “a traditional birth attendant.”
As well, the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) has confirmed that it “flagged” a difficult home birth on Quadra Island in August. Earlier this month BCAS spokesperson Kelsie Carwithen said: “This case was reported due to the perceived patient safety issues surrounding the scope of care provided under the jurisdiction of the college.”
Gloria Lemay, a member of Humanize Birth, says: “People are outraged that this little Health Professions Act group is trying to dictate what women in Canada can do with their bodies. And, we are outraged that the college is using the ambulance service to intimidate people so they won’t call an ambulance if they need one.”
Lemay, who describes herself as a midwifery educator and traditional birth attendant, says the one-hour rally was attended by mothers, fathers, grandparents, nurses, massage therapists and nutritionists. The message was simple she said: “This is no way to do business. If there is a problem on Quadra Island get a midwife there.”
Jolar has been on the college’s radar since 1998 and became an issue again for her role in the birth of Morgan Stewart-Webb. Responding to a 911 call Aug. 15, paramedics went to the home of Noah Webb, 25, a volunteer firefighter, and Amanda Stewart, 28, who had gone into labour early and had given birth in the couple’s backyard wading pool. The paramedics were troubled by what they encountered.
College Registrar Jane Kilthei says: “In many cases it appears that these practitioners, who may call themselves traditional birth attendants or doulas, are putting mothers and babies at grave risk.
“We have a legislated mandate to investigate complaints about regulated midwifery practice and we take that responsibility very seriously, working hard with our registrants to continuously improve midwifery services in B.C.
“This fall the college has received an increasing number of complaints from the public, from emergency responders and from other health care professionals about alleged dangerous unregulated midwifery practice in a number of B.C. communities. While the college’s primary focus is on ensuring that registered midwives are qualified, competent, ethical and safe to practice, the college also has a broad legislated duty to protect the public. This includes investigating concerns brought forward to us about illegal practice.”
The Health Professions Act defines restricted activities and amongst them are managing labour and delivering a newborn. Only physicians, nurses in hospitals and registered midwives are permitted to perform these procedures. The college claims that Jolar is leaving herself open to a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail.
But Lemay says the college’s investigation effectively serves to discourage all traditional birth attendants from continuing to offer support to birthing women.
“It aims to limit birthing women’s options in childbirth while at the same time violating their basic human right to be able to choose where and with whom they will give birth. The BC College of Midwives has a history of spending our taxpayers’ money on persecuting any birth attendants who support birthing women without being registered with the college. It is time to put an end to this. It is time to recognize birthing women’s right to choose who will support them during childbirth.”
Ganga Jolicoeur, Executive Director of the Midwives Association of BC says: “This issue isn’t about respecting a women’s right to choose who will support them during childbirth, it’s about protecting maternal and newborn health and life. The community should be concerned that so-called traditional birth attendants are operating outside of the law without the necessary skills and training, endangering the health and lives of mothers and their newborns.”
Jolar did not attend the rally and could not be reached for comment.