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Women's birthing rights advocates stage protest in response to arrest of Indiana midwife

Thursday, April 12, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: midwives, protest, birthing rights

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(NaturalNews) Though she has reportedly assisted in the successful delivery of more than 1,700 babies, 400 of which were born in their families' homes, 49-year-old Ireena Keeslar, a former obstetrics nurse-turned-midwife, was recently arrested on charges of practicing midwifery without a license. And at her hearing in LaGrange County, Indiana, on April 9, 2012, more than 100 supporters of all ages came out to protest her incarceration, and take a stand for women's birthing rights.

Practicing midwifery in the state of Indiana without being a licensed nurse is currently illegal, which makes it extremely difficult not only for midwives like Keeslar to practice, but also for women who prefer a more personalized and natural form of childbirth to receive the proper care of their choice. Even certified practical midwifery and direct-entry midwifery are illegal in the Hoosier State, which greatly limits women's birthing options there.

According to BlogHer.com, Keeslar was arrested in the early morning of Saturday, March 31, for no specific reason other than that authorities had found out about her practice and decided to pursue her. Keeslar's many years of experience as an obstetrics nurse are technically not enough to satisfy the legal requirements of Indiana for midwifery, even though she had never reportedly had any issues with deliveries -- to the contrary, her services were in high demand all across rural, northeastern Indiana, where home births are common and growing in popularity.

Indiana obstetricians fear, oppose midwifery because it cuts into their business

Some local obstetricians in Keeslar's area claim that midwifery can be dangerous, and that it should be regulated or illegal except under certain circumstances. But others who are more "in the know" about how midwifery actually works deny these claims, and believe that the real issue concerns profit loss.

"It's all about the money. People who have money in Parkview Hospital in LaGrange County want to do away with our midwives," said Dr. Cal Streeter, D.O., a 37-year veteran in medicine that has long-backed midwifery, to BlogHer.com. "It's as safe to have a baby at home as in the hospital. Most of the problems in obstetrics are doctors trying to hurry the process up or slow it down."

For the entire day of her arrest, Keeslar was forced to remain in a dirty prison cell, wear a prisoner's uniform that was too tight and that cut off her circulation, and be fed meals that were improper for her diabetic condition. She was even reportedly refused access to her insulin medication, until finally she was released on $10,000 bail.

On the day of Keeslar's hearing, more than 100 men, women, and children showed up on the footsteps of the LaGrange County Courthouse to protest her arrest and take a stand for birthing rights. According to Richard Muntz, Keeslar's attorney, the hearing was waived and a plea of "not guilty" was declared on Keeslar's behalf.

A few weeks earlier, 47-year-old Jeannie Stanley of nearby Albion, Ind., was arrested on the same charges of practicing midwifery without a license. That investigation reportedly led to authorities discovering Keeslar's practice as well.

"I think the arrest of midwives is a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Mary Ann Griffin, president of the Indiana Midwives Association to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. "Indiana should legislate and not litigate."

If you wish to support Ireena Kesslar by helping to cover her legal fees, you can send checks to:
Ireena Keeslar Legal Fund
7570 East 750 North
Howe, Indiana 46746

Sources for this article include:




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