An advocacy group for New Mexico midwives responded Monday by calling the arrest an unprecedented move that threatens to worsen a shortage of maternity care in the state.
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies on Friday charged Jessica Weed, 34, with a felony charge of child abuse for her role in the complex home birth Aug. 28, according to criminal complaint filed in Bernalillo County Metro Court.
Weed was released Saturday from the Metropolitan Detention Center on a $5,000 bond, court records show.
The birth led to the baby’s admission Aug. 30 at University of New Mexico Hospital with bleeding on the brain and retinal bleeding, a sheriff’s detective wrote in the criminal complaint.
The mother, Kristin Himm, was admitted to UNMH the same day and underwent surgery to remove portions of the placenta that had not emerged during the birth and later became toxic, the complaint said.
Weed also was charged with felony intimidation of a witness because she is accused of urging Himm and others to conceal Weed’s involvement in the home birth from medical personnel.
Weed is accused of asking Himm to write and sign a letter saying that the birth had been unassisted and that Weed was not present, the complaint said.
The infant, referred to only as “BH” in the criminal complaint, was born by a “footling breech,” meaning the baby’s foot emerged first, rather than the head, according to the complaint.
Weed told an investigator that she had observed swelling on the baby’s head but believed it could be normal, the investigator wrote.
Himm told the investigator she was unaware of the hazards of retaining placenta and that Weed had not suggested hospital treatment. Weed told the investigator she had recommended Himm seek hospital care the night of the birth.
The New Mexico Midwives Association issued a written statement Monday saying that licensed health care providers are regulated under civil law and that it is extremely rare for medical personnel to be criminally charged.
“If we used criminal law to hold health care providers responsible for their patients’ outcomes, our prison system would be overwhelmed,” Cassaundra Jah, a spokeswoman for the association, is quoted in the statement.
“If we are telling providers that they not only risk being sued, but arrested and put in jail for anything less than a perfect outcome, then we can expect to see an exodus of maternity and other health care professionals leaving our state,” Jah said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal