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.