Nonetheless, She persisted ~ My life as a Political Prisoner ~ arrested, prosecuted, & prevailed ~ 1991 to 1993

August 9, 2012

Postscript: As mentioned earlier, today is the 21st anniversary of being arrested by two agents of the MBC in the living room of our Palo Alto home.

Fifteen hours later I was bailed out of the Ellwood Women’s Correctional Facility in Milpitas (Ca) at 2 in the morning by a friend and former client (Angie Thieriot), who put her house up as collateral for the $5,000 bond.

That was Day One of being a political hostage during a 20-month criminal prosecution that had been instigated by organized medicine and its intention to maintain its 100-year long monopoly over childbirth services.  It is not a coincidence that this is the day

It is not a coincidence that this is the day i choose to publish the first post on the Garden Party Patriotism website.

If living well is the only ‘revenge’ one is legally allowed, then I not only prevailed but triumphed. After the criminal charges against me were dropped on April 29th, 1993, I embarked on a personal version gardening — preparing the soil, planting, watering, tending, and harvesting —  democratic ideal & social justice.

I won’t bore you with the details, but my arrest and eventual release provoked the California Medical Association (CMA), which is the state chapter of the AMA, to drop their historical and decades-long opposition to licensing traditional (i.e. non-medical or non-nurse) midwives.

This occurred just 5 weeks after the case against me ended and local newspaper articles and an editorial in the San Jose Mercury (May 5th 1993) pointed out the CMA should spend more time on effectively policing harmful and incompetent doctors, and stop harassing “caring professional like Gibson” and instead allow legislation to pass that would create a state-regulated practice of midwifery by professionally-trained ‘direct-entry’ (non-nurse) midwives.

Devin_RaggetyAnne_HatThe Licensed Midwifery Practice Act of 1993 was signed into law that October. I am now Ca LM #041.

It’s instructive to remember that this story started with me being led away in handcuffs by medical board agents in presence of my youngest daughter on a Friday afternoon in 1991 (i.e. the timing was a bureaucratic ploy since all judges leave at noon for the weekend, so there is no way to be released on one own recognizance).

Since that awful day, I had the extraordinary experience of being politically-effect in spite of having no experience, no money, no status, and no political influence.

My journey on this speeding horse began on May 1st, 1993, just 3 days after being released from jail. What’s when I attended the first of over a 100 public meetings of the Medical board of California (MBC). My idea was to “hold my enemies even closer than my friends”. Also, I’d always heard that “knowledge is power”. I came to MBC quarterly meeting to learn everything there was to know about an official state organization that had been was arresting midwives (me and dozens of others) for 20 years.

Other than that, I had only one “rule”, which, given the circumstances, was an odd kind of loyalty: I would never do or say anything in print (that is, give an inside ‘scope’ to a reporter) that would publicly dishonor or disgrace the MBC.

My version of ‘citizen revenge’ was to roll up my sleeves and use the process of democracy — however imperfect — to make things work at every level for everyone, from the state agency itself, the obstetrical profession , down to the midwives and families they served. With perseverance and the help of many loyal supporters and activists (eventually including the staff of the MBC), I was able to turn a personal injustice into a win-win for everybody.

After officially becoming California Licensed Midwives #041, I continued to lobby for amendments to the LMPA that would make it work better for mothers and midwives (SB 1476, SB 1950 & SB 1638). One of those amendments (SB 1638) created a Midwifery Advisory Council under the auspices of the MBC. In March of 2007, I was appointed to sit on the Council and elected Chair, a position I held for the next 3 years. I was reappointed to the Council in 2010 and resigned in 2013 so I could work on new mfry legislation without any conflict of interests.

During those 6 years, the same state agency that had arrested me in 1991 now had my name on its letterhead as Chair and a member of the Midwifery Advisory Council. This was a great ride and a worthwhile contribution to democracy.

Having succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, I thank G*D and that small army of faithful, generous, and inventive supporters of me and midwifery. So many people helped me set things right for myself and for traditional midwifery in our state.

The Rest of the Story:
The Social and political History of California Midwifery – 1850 to 2014


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