Midwife case ends with one charge
YATES COUNTY--Elizabeth Catlin pled guilty Tuesday, Sept. 14 to a single felony charge for unauthorized practice of the profession of midwifery in a plea agreement that will see the rest of the 95-count indictment dropped. Set to go to trial as early as October, Catlin, 55, was facing charges ranging from negligent homicide to falsifying business records.
Under the plea agreement negotiated with the Yates County District Attorney's Office, Catlin can not receive a sentence of more than 30 days in county jail, performing community service and/or a term of probation of up to five years. While the crime of unauthorized practice of the profession of midwifery is a felony that can carry a prison term of up to four years, there is no mandatory minimum prison sentence associated with the crime. Sentencing is currently scheduled to occur in December.
Catlin, who had generated a great deal of support amongst the Mennonite community, many of whom were there to support her during the press conference where the terms of the plea deal were announced, cheered and celebrated at the news.
"When would I ever be excited to plead guilty to a felony charge? Does that even make sense? No," Catlin said in relation to the other 94 charges being dropped.
As it stands, thirty states in America currently recognize certified professional midwives can aid in the birth of children, but New York is not one of them. New York requires graduate-level education and examination to use the term or practice being a "midwife." A nurse-midwife is also an acceptable certification.
Catlin was initially indicted in 2019 and pled not guilty in 2020. The case, and the support Catlin provided to the local Mennonite community garnered national attention, especially after Mennonites helped pay her bail and would show up to court in support of her. Last Tuesday was no different, with a large crowd of Mennonite women and children in attendance at the press conference.
Home birthing, once a common practice across the United States, was largely replaced by hospital-led pre and post-natal care. However, certain religions or beliefs and the rise of COVID-19 in hospitals, have led an increased number of expecting parents to consider home birthing recently.
"Even when I was practicing midwifery... we worked together as a community," said Catlin. "It was the doctors, the nurse practitioners, the grandmothers... public health, the midwives we all worked together to make a healthy community."
At the press conference last week Catlin said she would work to ensure certified midwives could work in New York without fear of persecution.
However, a bill entitled the Community Midwifery Bill, which would allow certified midwives to perform their services in New York, has not even made it to the floor for consideration.
Catlin also took time to thank the local community for standing with her during the ordeal.
"Be thankful for this community, and be thankful that in this country we can work towards freedom for a woman to choose where she has her baby and with whom she invites to the birth," Catlin added. "That is paramount freedom."