After coming across the business card of underground midwife, Norman Casserley, I wanted to know the back story. How did the star of the 1961 hit movie, Diary of a Nudist, become an underground man-midwife banned in San Diego, California?
One book offered the context of Casserley and his 1971 arrest for practicing medicine without a license.
The women’s movement may have begun the process of empowering women to take control of their bodies, but the number of women demanding childbirth alternatives rose during the 1970s simply because the baby boomers were entering their childbearing years. Traditional in-hospital delivery under the care of a physician was not acceptable to all birthing women. Some chose home birth, others sought midwife-attended birth, and a select few demanded both. Traditional physicians did not react favorably to either possibility.
The movement to return to home birth in the United States began in California. A male midwife, Norman Casserly, was arrested for practicing medicine without a license in 1971. His arrest, conviction and appeal have brought publicity to home birth and led a growing number of women to rally for birthing alternatives.
Some women, especially obstetric nurses, knew that women wanted their husbands with them at delivery, that they wanted to bond with their babies before they were whisked off to the nursery, and that they questioned whether episiotomies were really necessary. Some of these women agreed to serve as birth attendant for friends or relatives who refused to submit to physician in-hospital delivery. Their willingness to serve became established in the home birth movement, and they became known as lay midwives. In many states these women could face criminal prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. In other states “granny” and frontier midwives had long been acknowledged as serving the needs of rural communities and did not face the same sanctions (Schrom Dye, 1983). Contrasts among states were stark, reflecting the lack of basic services in some regions and the availability of high technology in others. If hospital services for childbirth were available, the medical establishment and the legislatures they influenced assumed that they should be used.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) responded to the demands for alternatives in childbirth with a policy statement proclaiming that home birth was a form of child abuse and neglect (ACOG, 1975). Mainstream medicine, specifically obstetrics, had a monopoly on childbirth that it was not going to give up easily.
But was it really the monopoly on childbirth that ACOG refused to give up or was it the monopoly on catchy, catchy tunes about man-midwives and childbirth that ACOG couldn’t part with?
You be the judge.
|Norris The Troubadour - Midwifery 1975 .mp3|
|Found at bee mp3 search engine|
You can download this mp3 as a ringtone for your phone. You’re welcome.
Source: Gordon, R., Nienstedt, B., & Gesler, W. (1998). Alternative Therapies. New York: Springer Pub. Co.