Yates County Public Health officials say 151 of the 319 babies born to Yates County residents during 2017 were born to Mennonite families. Many of those babies were likely born in their family homes, and it’s highly likely under the watch of Elizabeth Catlin — the woman facing criminal charges for practicing midwifery without the education and training required by New York State. Neither the New York State Police Investigator nor the New York State Education Department Investigator will provide details about the investigation or the source that led them to levy the charges against Catlin, a Certified Professional Midwife, a status recognized in up to 30 other states.
More women who have used Catlin’s services have spoken out to protest action taken by the investigators who took Catlin into custody in November. Their voices have been joined by Ivan Martin, a patriarch in the Mennonite community who moved to Yates County in 1977, and has helped others in the area understand the Mennonite culture.
Speaking out so forcefully and publicly about an issue is uncommon for Mennonite women, and Martin says while the Mennonite culture has a biblical injunction to not sue over disputes, they would certainly plead their case if given an opportunity to speak to elected representatives.
Martin stresses the practice of using a birth assistant for in-home births is not a religious matter, but it is a cultural matter. The father of 13 children — 12 which were born in the family home, and three of those delivered in home by a medical doctor — says women are more comfortable being cared for by a woman in their own home, rather than a birthing center or hospital, perhaps by a man.