Midwife of the Week: Karen Webster

Karen Webster (L) with Priya Morgenstern, attorney

Karen Webster (L) with Priya Morgenstern, attorney

Karen Webster, CPM began working in midwifery as an assistant, receiving her training from both Certified Nurse-Midwives and direct entry midwives. She became the first Certified Professional Midwife in both Delaware and Maryland, and was one of the first in Pennsylvania. She has served on the Board of Directors for MANA, currently as its regional conference chair. She also acts as a preceptor for the National College of Midwifery and BirthWise Midwifery School and as a Qualified Evaluator for NARM.

After 2002, Delawareʼs restrictive regulations required all direct entry midwives to maintain a formal collaborative relationship with a physician in order to obtain a permit. Physicians, however, were under no responsibility to enter such relationships; in fact, most were prohibited from doing so by employers and insurers. Consequently, only one midwife was granted a permit before new law was enacted in 2015. That midwife’s collaborating physician required her to limit her practice to the Amish and Mennonite communities, because of the belief that religious custom prevents those communities from filing lawsuits.

In 2012, Karen was charged with practicing medicine without a license. Even though her legal costs were high and attorneys willing to take her case were scarce, she was ultimately able to proceed all the way to the Delaware Supreme Court with the help of monetary assistance from consumers and support of legal advocates.

Karen’s defense asserted that because Delaware had implemented a permitting process for midwives under the state’s public health department, charges brought against her under the Board of Medicine were jurisdictionally incorrect. Unfortunately, early this year the lower courtʼs decision was upheld.

Nevertheless, the outcome was not entirely negative. Under subsequently enacted legislation, Delaware CPMs will soon be able to be licensed and to practice autonomously. Thanks to this latest development, Karen feels that despite her loss in court, her case was worth fighting, because it led to change for other Delaware midwives – and therefore also for many families who wish to have their births attended by certified, regulated CPMs.

For more background on Karen or her case, visit savethemidwife.com.

This Midwife of the Week post was written by Valerie Meharg. It originated on FoMM’s Facebook page and is archived here on our website for your continued enjoyment!