An unlicensed Nebraska midwife hit with a child abuse charge for her role in a home birth in which the infant died was ordered held on $25,000 bail on Friday.
Prosecutors say Angela Hock—a “traditional” midwife who goes as “The Nebraska Birth Keeper” online—assisted in 25-year-old Emily Noe’s delivery on June 15. According to court documents, she failed to deliver the breech baby safely, depriving the infant of oxygen and leading to her death two days later.
Omaha Police arrested Hock, 36, on Wednesday and charged her with negligent child abuse resulting in death, a felony. Her attorney argued in a Friday court appearance that she had worked with the family in question for two years, according to local news reports. Noe declined to comment to The Daily Beast.
Omaha Fire Department medics received a call June 15 about a pregnant woman in labor, according to court documents. They arrived to find Noe on all fours on the floor, with Hock holding the partially delivered baby in her hands. Hock—who does not have a nurse-midwife license—allegedly realized the baby was coming out feet-first during labor, but advised Noe she was trained in breech deliveries.
When the infant still had not been fully delivered after 30 minutes, Hock advised calling 911, authorities say. When paramedics arrived, court documents state, she asked them for scissors and attempted to perform an obstetric procedure herself.
The infant was eventually delivered by paramedics en route to the hospital, but was limp and unresponsive. She was taken off of life support two days later. The obstetrician on call said the death could have been prevented "had appropriate medical care been provided in a timely manner,” according to the affidavit.
Hock was paid $3,000-$4,000 for assisting Noe’s birth, according to the court documents.
“I am absolutely outraged,” Joann Floyd, the infant’s grandmother, told CNN affiliate WOWT. “I have a beautiful granddaughter that we just buried at Omaha National Cemetery in a tiny little casket; and my heart is broken, and my daughter’s heart is broken, and my son-in-law’s heart is broken, and we’re all heartbroken. This is a beautiful baby.”
Under Nebraska state law, it is illegal for medically trained and certified “nurse midwives” to assist in births outside of a clinical setting. But some home births do still occur by accident, or with the help of unlicensed midwives not recognized by the state. On her website, Hock says she offers a “third option for women wanting home birth,” through a private membership association she claims is not subject to any public law or regulation.
“A PMA is similar to a private family in that what is stated or done inside the family home by, to and among family members is not generally subject to any governmental scrutiny, censorship or control,” her website claims.
Hock is not formally trained or registered as a midwife, and says she learned to deliver babies by watching home births as a doula. She describes herself as a “natural undisturbed home birth advocate” and says she believes that “women possess the God-given wisdom and intuition to birth their babies free from regulation.”
Home births are a growing trend in the U.S., as women seek alternatives to birthing in a clinical environment. One study found home births increased from 0.87 percent in 2004 to 1.50 percent in 2014. Another found it carries approximately double the risk of neonatal death.
Supporters of the practice started a GoFundMe to help cover Hock’s legal fees Tuesday, claiming the case was about “preserving the right of women in Nebraska to give birth in the setting and with the attendant of their choosing.”
“When you restrict midwives, you restrict women’s choices,” the fundraisers wrote. “The prohibition on midwife’s practice is a prohibition for a pregnant woman to have a supported homebirth.”
The campaign raised more than $4,500 in three days.