Written Code, or the Life of a Mother and Child

In November of 2007, Katherine “Katie” McCall arrived at the much anticipated home birth of a friend. As a student midwife she was slated to assist a licensed midwife in the birthing process. But as the clock ticked on and the time drew near, her supervisor did not show up. She was delivering another baby and was unable to make it in time. Understanding the complicated implications, “McCall then suggested the mother go to a hospital,” said her attorney, Stephen Demik, “but the woman declined.” Katie did all she could to call in another licensed midwife, not wanting the mother unattended, but none were available.

Some things don’t wait. As the birth resolutely progressed, Katie looked on, not intending to “practice without a license,” but the child’s shoulder got caught in the birth canal during delivery. She dislodged the baby’s shoulder, and also stopped excessive bleeding due to the complications. “Ms. McCall acted in a Good Samaritan capacity, and because of what she did, she potentially saved two lives,” Demik said.

A few years later, Katie McCall was granted her medical license as a midwife by the medical board of California. According to the LA Times, “McCall was licensed as a midwife June 24, 2010, with an address in Anaheim. Her license remains current, according to state records.” Yet simultaneously, tipped off by another witness of the birth, “Medical board investigators found that McCall’s ‘negligence’ caused complications and ‘posed a danger and risk to the consumers of California.’ Her attorney, Stephen Demik, said the medical board went after McCall even as they licensed her.”

On Wednesday, August 17th, because of this reported “negligence,” Katherine McCall was convicted on the count of one felony in the Los Angeles County Superior Court after investigations by “the Medical Board of California’s Operation Safe Medicine team, which probes allegations of unlicensed practice of medicine.” Additionally, “McCall is considering whether to appeal her conviction. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 16.”

Katie did everything she could do to ensure the safety of her friend, short of forcing her to be hospitalized. Had she not been present and alert, it is likely that both mother and child would have suffered for it. Demik adds, “There were no other complaints against Ms. McCall for the births she attended.” Her license was granted without question when her studies were completed. She is now married with 2 children. But with a felony on her record, her life will never be the same.

One of Katie’s clients, Scarlett Harris, who is also proud to call her friend, gives this testimony: “an injustice has been done by the state of California in their pursuit and prosecution of Katie. I know from personal experience that she is an advocate for mothers, babies and families. She wants nothing more than for mothers to be educated, empowered and to have a safe outcome in birth.”

Some things don’t wait. Some plans go awry. When this happens, what should our response be? Should a mother’s careful choice to birth at home be disrespected, even forcibly denied? Do the claims of a written code override the life and safety of a woman and child in need? Is it right to prosecute one who defended a mother’s choice, and fended off danger when it reared its head?

As prolife advocates, it is helpful for us to consider the scope of our fight. Fostering a culture of life includes coming to the defense of all who do their part to protect it.

  • Anonymous

    In November of 2007, Katherine “Katie” McCall arrived at the much
    anticipated home birth of a friend. As a student midwife she was slated
    to assist a licensed midwife in the birthing process. But as the clock
    ticked on and the time drew near, her supervisor did not show up.

    Your version of the story differs from that in the LA Times.  If a licensed midwife who was Ms. McCall’s supervisor was scheduled to do the delivery while Ms. McCall assisted, that would be one thing.  The LA Times, however, does not indicate that was the case.  Rather, it says that Ms. McCall had sold the client her doula services with the promise that she would bring in a licensed midwife when the client gave birth, and then could not come up with one when needed.  If so, she may well have been negligent.

    Ms. McCall was confronted with a medical emergency that she knew she was not qualified to address.  She should have called 911. 

    I don’t know the details of the case, so I don’t know if her how culpable Ms McCall is.  If she failed to act responsibly, however, being pro-life does not excuse or negate her irresponsibility.

  • http://twitter.com/SnarkySheila Sheila Snark

    Even though the mother was foolish enough not to want to go the hospital under the circumstances, Ms. McCall should have called 911.  I feel badly for her because she did save lives and the court should have mercy on her.

  • http://daughteroftheheavenlyking.wordpress.com Laura R

    absolutely agree. “As prolife advocates, it is helpful for us to consider the scope of our fight. Fostering a culture of life includes coming to the defense of all who do their part to protect it.”
    what I dont understand is the double standard –  women who want the “right to choose” but not the right to choose where and ho to delivery healthy babies? Does the right to choose truly only refer to the legap right to murder a baby? Sadly I think yes. If birth can be medicalized, instead of considered to be a natural, beautiful event (which most homebirth advocates understand) then abortion can that much more accepted – if birth and pregnancy are medicalized, than abortion just seems to be another medical intervention.  Women such as Midwife Katie, CNMs, Homebirth midwives, and moms such as myself who choose homebirth are a threat to the abortion agenda because they (we) witness to the natural, God-ordered phenomonon of birth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1261928306 Jennifer Rogers-Germain

    I would have called 911 and then also helped the mother and baby. I am sure this young woman did the best she could under the circumstances and I am sure the mother and child were taken to the hospital after the birth. It seems it is not the mother who filed a complaint, but some other “witness to the birth”, who apparently did nothing to help.

    If this woman is going to be punished, then so should the 12 year old boy in Canada who recently helped deliver his new baby brother b/c the birth wasn’t going to wait.

    • Marleijoh

      911 is jacked up if you haven’t seen the article by Michael Crowley. There are inattentive operators and it’s burdened with stupid calls.

    • Guest

      “If this woman is going to be punished, then so should the 12 year old boy in Canada who recently helped deliver his new baby brother b/c the birth wasn’t going to wait.”
      exactly what i’m saying. the law can be so inconsistent. if she’s charged with a felony, so should everyone who helps deliver a family member without a license.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t just pro-life; it’s pro-choice too. She should be covered under Good Samaritan laws, which state that the person in need of help (the mother) has the right to refuse any kind of assistance (in this case, going to the hospital), and that the helper MUST respect that. She respected the mother’s choice and would not have been protected had she dialed 911 against her will. And then she did her best (that’s what “in Good Samaritan capacity” means; you don’t have to be licensed in order to come to someone’s rescue, but you must also respect their beliefs), with positive outcomes. So what’s the problem?

    There’s no way a 3rd party is allowed to press charges like this. And I’m not convinced that someone acting as a Good Samaritan before they’re licensed constitutes medical malpractice. This case is bogus. Or possibly a move against home-birthers.

  • Hoffmanfive

    The charges against Katie McCall, if as represented, are stupid and frivolous. She did no damage and committed no negligence. (The mother was presumably capable of summoning emergency help if she desired it, and was within her rights to refuse it.)

    But I’m really REALLY confused as to how this is a pro-life issue. McCall’s stance on “choice” isn’t known, and those who prosecuted her could feel that they, too, are acting in behalf of the cause of life. This has nothing to do with abortion, and I think goes beyond the scope of the pro-life issue.

    • Anonymous

      Disqus seems to be eating my posts.  If you click on the link to the LA Times story, you’ll see that young Miss Kauk’s version of the events is quite different from the DA’s.

  • Anonymous

    Unsurprisingly, the LA Times’ account of Ms. McCall’s case is very different from the one posted at Live Action.  According to the LA Times, Ms. McCall sold her services as a doula to the client with the promise that Ms. McCall would arrange for a licensed midwife when the client gave birth; Ms. McCall’s plan then fell through when the midwife was unavailable.  In other words, Ms. McCall was responsible for getting someone to supervise her, and she failed to do so.  That is entirely different from her stepping in because her supervisor failed to show up.

    “Good Samaritan” laws are not relevant here because they apply to passersby who render emergency aid without compensation, not to people who have contracted to render a service for pay.

    In any event, whether or not Ms. McCall was treated justly should be determined based on her actions and the situation, not her political views.  Unless, of course, you are arguing that being pro-life means that you should be held to a lower standard of competence.

  • http://www.hearthsidedoulas.com Angelique Chelton

    As a student midwife committed to life at all stages, I absolutely agree with this article. Parents who desire to bring their children into the world in a safe, loving manner should be supported- as should those willing to serve them. Katie SAVED two lives that day because of her competence.

  • Freedom1980

    My daughter and her husband chose homebirth for both their children. Their son,born first,now 3, was delivered by a midwife in just a couple of hours,no complications, at 9 lbs. Although it was new to all of us and we were not sure about it, we didn’t interfere with their decision. Their second child, a daughter, was born from start to finish in 38 minutes , needless to say the midwife did not have time to arrive and the parents were alone, as we were to far away also. But, they knew what their were doing having had the experience and she is a nurse. So, dad delivered their daughter weighing in at 10 lbs. Both children are health and happy. Indeed it could have ended badly, but it could have at a hospital as well. So, in California they would consider this practicing medicine without a license. That would be ludicrous to say the least. Parents should have the option as their choice, the choice was given the parents to go to a hospital, they chose not too. They chose to have their friend deliver the baby knowing the consequences. The state does not have the right to prosecute this young lady. I agree that we need to come to the defense of anyone fostering a culture of life. Congrats to the parents. 

  • Michelle Brown

    This sounds really sketchy, and it never says that the felony was related to the same case of the supervisor not showing up before she got her license. Perhaps it was an entirely different case and she DID commit a felony. Hopefully not, and hopefully she will choose to appeal and win if she is truly not a felon.

  • Greg.

    these kind of stories make sad to be an American. I don’t “know” my country anymore. Anymore ALL the US government want it to make all American convicted Felons, that way they can take away ALL of our rights. I Support Katie 100%!! this makes me wonder what happened to the Good  Samaritan laws. I feel very sorry for Katie, because as our government see it, she is a criminal for helping, and she would have been a criminal if she did nothing. How the HELL we surived before now is beyond me, I mean giving birth in log cabins in the middle of no where, not having our government prosecuting basicly every one. how did we ever make it this far…..(sarcasim) We DO NOT ALWAYS NEED A HOSPITAL, do do something natural. Katie, you should appeal your conviction, make the state pay millions of $$. maybe if that happens enough, people might wake up to the wastful, destructive spending our government is doing. again, I support what Katie did 100%

  • Greg.

    whats with all you people saying “CALL 911″ how did you parents live long enough to have you BEFORE 911 came about?? can’t you do ANYTHING for yourself, or do you think everyone is too stupid (unless they respond from a 911 call) to do anything. 911 operators are stupid, and are only reading computer screen to be able to tell you what to do. I have caled 911, having ALL the information they need, ( I was in search and rescue) and all it did was confuse the opperator. grow up, and learn how to help yourself.

  • Jody Ward

    “…an injustice has been done…”  Harris is absolutely right.  Many women, like myself, choose out-of-hospital birth partly because of the dangers to mothers and babies caused by interventions that doctors and hospitals impose.  Home birthing is a very pro-life choice!   The U.S. has a higher percentage of hospital births than any other nation.  It also has the highest percentage of infant mortality among the industrialized nations.

  • http://www.hearthsidedoulas.com Angelique Chelton

    It wasn’t medical malpractice. Katie was convicted of practicing medicine without a license. Which is ridiculous because if she HAD been liscensed, she would have been practicing MIDWIFERY. Guess there’s no law against practicing midwifery without a liscense, so they had to get her somehow.

    Although I know little more about the case than what’s stated above, I *DO* know that in MANY states where homebirth midwifery is legal, midwives face an astonishing amount of hostility from the established medical community… I am not surprised that, although the client was completely satisfied and healthy, the Board of MEDICINE decided to press the issue with the DA…

    • NMH

      The problem is that the choices this student midwife made indicate poor judgement. Sure, things turned out alright this time around, but what happens when it doesn’t? What happens when you shrug off her poor judgement and her negligence just because no one died _this_ time, but someone dies next time? Will you still be so supportive of her?

      I’ve experienced the arrogance some of these psuedo-medical types exhibit, and it damned near killed me. She is NOT a doctor. She had NO license to practice anything except maybe driving. She should have dialed 911. That she did not shows exceedingly poor judgement and complete disregard for the life of the child. It was all about the mother and herself and their agenda.

  • PM

    It seems odd that so many people who commit abortions in disgusting conditions are free to practice in their negligence-it is the hardest thing in the world to even get these places investigated; yet a woman saves two lives and will pay for that decision the rest of her life. It is so sad what our world is coming to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000203899847 Maria Taheny

    Poor thing was in a no-win situation!  Had she opted not to act, she would have been sued for failing to act, and by acting, she was convicted of practicing without a license.  Does this occur when a person assists another in the process of an accidental sudden birth?  This will have severe repercussions, if it is allowed to stand.  Let’s hope her appeal lawyer will be better than the one she had for the initial trial!

  • Patty

    What would they have charged her with if she had stood there at the birth, with the knowledge of how to save mom and babe, and did nothing?  

  • Anonymous

    This has little to do with pro-life v. pro-choice. The problem is that this pregnant woman should have gone to the hospital once it became clear she wasn’t going to have midwife assistance. This woman CHOSE to jeopardize her child’s life by selfishly insisting on following some “birth plan” SHE had cooked up in her own head. The student midwife screwed up when she CHOSE to  just sit there as an “observer”. That was negligent. She should have called 911 the second she realized there were complications, if not sooner. This story is about selfishness and the total disregard for the child on the part of both the mother and the student midwife. Stupid is as stupid does, and both the mother and the student midwife sound like very stupid women to me.

  • Anonymous

    This has little to do with pro-life v. pro-choice.
    Yes, exactly.  The blogger has merely  cut out details from the LA times story that reflect badly on the student midwife, added embellishments that make the student midwife seem more sympathetic, and then claimed that the woman deserves support because she likes babies.  It’s cynical manipulation of the readers here, but of course, it works.

  • Anonymous

    Incidentally, for those who support ‘personhood’ and whatnot for fetuses: women have been forcibly compelled to undergo medical treatment against their will because it was deemed in the best interests of the fetus.  None of those decisions has stood up in appellate court, but if you are fully committed to a belief in fetal personhood, then you really should be condemning Ms. McCall for not calling 911 on the fetus’s behalf, rather than defending her.

  • Anonymous

    I continue to wonder why it is that some in our nation waste so much time, and energy doing the wrong thing. This woman did what was necessary at the time, a hundred years ago noone would give this action a second thought. I pray that there is never a time in the lives of these foolish people that they need to take action and don’t have 6 months to ponder over the world wide scope of nonsense that gets dragged into things like this. It so simple, right time, right place, right reaction, right outcome. God save us from over thinking, idiots. 

  • Anonymous

    A side note comes to mind, as long as we have people who are calling 911 because they are locked inside their own car, and are afraid of the movie that is playing on their TV. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ll take my common sense and my life experience to task first. Also as to some of the comments that have been made here, it becomes very obvious who is A. very young, B. never had a baby, C. uneducated.  Katie did the exactly right things, anyone who has attacked her, will not like when this comes back around on them, maybe they should keep in contact with her, she will have a quick life saving answer when they can’t remember the number for 911. 

  • Guest

    why does katie get in trouble and not husbands who end up having to deliver their babies or-as i read recently-boys who deliver their siblings? isn’t that the same thing?

    • Kim Mosny, CPM

      No, it is not the same. The student was monetarily retained by the parents to provide supervised midwifery services to them. She was not merely a family member, friend or generic passerby in a public setting… thus the Good Samaritan Clause doesn’t apply is her case.

  • Brian Crouch

    I would hope an appellate judge would see that there was no intent to practice without a license, it was a matter of circumstance. Imagine if a police cadet intervened and stopped a crime in progress: would he be a felon because he didn’t have a badge yet? 
    If she hadn’t been training in any way, but was only a bystander or neighbor, would this even have gone to court? 

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  • Kristine

    I spent 5 years an an EMT in LA County.  EMT’s and Paramedics are trained ONLY in the most basic birth.  It makes me chuckle and groan at the same time, all this CALL 911 business. 

    First off.  Katie, as a student midwife, had MORE much more skill and knowledge of what was happening than the firemen do.  Most Medics dread the ‘birth’ call…trust me, I know this.  I worked int he field with these men.

    When the shoulder is stuck, the head is OUT people…OUT.  How is a firefighter, emt, paramedic supposed to help in this situation:  The whole EMS system is to “stablize and transport”  thats it. 

    911 is not some magical hocus pocus that makes the baby sneak back up the birth canal and wait to get to the hospital. 

    • Kim Mosny, CPM

      The call to 911 was not to have their “help” but to serve as a witness to the student’s effort to provide the safest care without her supervisor. She could still act to help the mother and baby (trust me, 911 EMS guys would be saying, “Go ahead, we got your back.”) And then 911 becomes the WHEELS to transport the mother and baby to the hospital when the eminence of the birth is over and any immediate emergency is stabilized. The mother certainly could have refused 911 assistance or transport, but the act of the student CALLING for their back-up would have served her well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1049059815 Anonymous

    I heard that the jury was not allowed to know that Katie has since achieved her midwifery license. Why not? To me this is withholding important and pertenent information.  This is clearly a witch hunt. I know that the ariticle above left out the extreme prejudice of the DAs version. But the essential fact is the mother and baby are fine. The mother feared going to the hospital which  i completely support her in feeling afraid of. Hospitals are dangerous places for women to have babies.

    Those who insist that 911 should have been called are clearly not aware of much about that service.And to make a big deal about not calling is just silly.

    Nothing bad happened, people. Women should be allowed to have their babies any way they choose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kim.mosny Kim Lane Mosny Midwife

    I don’t know that the “Good Samaritan” clause applies in this case, since the mother retained the student midwife for her services, paying her a reduced fee, with the understanding that the student would be supervised by a Licensed Midwife. Sadly, the student did practice without a supervisor rather than calling 911 for their assistance. The mother certainly could have refused 911 assistance in her home, BUT had the student made the call, she may have been spared the complaint and prosecutory processes. She should appeal, of course, and get a better lawyer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/camdencountydoula Doula Harley Jennette

    This stinks of someone(s) behind the scenes against homebirthing. That is all that is really to it.