Amish Midwives Given Probation, Must Stop Practicing

Indiana Amish midwives Sylvia C. Eicher and Lydiann S. Schwartz avoided jail time at their sentencing Friday. The women were instead given 2 years’ probation and ordered to stop practicing midwifery and medicine. The prosecutor had asked for 6 months’ imprisonment. From WANE:

In court Friday, Prosecutor Jeremy Brown asked for 6 months in jail due to the severity of the cases. Brown argued the cases set a slippery slope and said both Eicher and Schwartz were told multiple times by law enforcement to stop.

Brown said there was an “intentional ignorance” and the prosecutor argued the court needed to protect babies.

Six people spoke on behalf of Eicher and Schwartz, including the mother of the baby who died. That woman said she did not blame the women. Another 42-year-old man said Eicher was present at his own birth, and said over four decades, Eicher and Schwartz have been delivering babies for at least four decades and delivered about 4,000 babies.

More than 100 people attended the sentencing hearing, with dozens more waiting outside the courtroom.

Supporters exit the Adams County courthouse

The women pleaded guilty in July to felony charges. A recap of the case:

It was early May when Eicher and Schwartz were arrested for illegally practicing medicine and administering medication to mothers and babies. At the time, Eicher told NewsChannel 15 that she has been delivering babies for 37 years, and said she and Schwartz taught themselves how. Eicher claims they have delivered thousands of babies in the Amish community.

Police said the woman administered veterinary medicine to women during during child birth, and at least one child died after their care.

Here’s the news report on Friday’s outcome. The reporter notes that “one woman said Schwartz gave birth to 10 of her children, including one who recently died of heart failure after birth. She said she did not hold anything against her, and that both women were only doing the work of God.”

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    13 Comments

    1. Alice Mary

      The Amish are not above the law. They (as I’ve learned here and elsewhere) purport to “respect authority”, the government. That these women say they “taught themselves” midwifery is frightening, as is the fact that they used veterinary medicine on women in their care. They were warned against continuing, and they ignored the warnings from “government.” No matter how many people “forgive” them (for the death of even one baby) it’s still not an excuse to break the law. Hopefully, Amish women will reconsider where and how they give birth. I’m aware there are reputable “birthing centers” in Amish communities. I hope they’re used as intended, for the health of mothers and babies alike.

      1. Penelope

        Training and Veterinary Meds

        Please read my post. You are quite inaccurate on the veterinary medicine.
        As for training themselves, I’m certain they learned under the skills of another midwife.
        My first birth was horrific, the Dr. felt I wasn’t progressing fast enough, so give me Pitocin, I suffered all night, during active birth, he was in a rush, so slice without consulting me, pulled my daughter out so forcefully, he dislocated her hip, resulting in physical therapy and a brace, a the while NO fetal distress was observed. Second birth, same situation, different doctor, he said if you don’t push this baby out in 15 minutes, I’m doing a C-section, he rapidly cut me, he was rushed. Third birth, a medically trained midwifery practice, one was just back from working in Africa, the main one I saw was a single Mom to 5, I had absolutely zero stress, played cards with my husband, when my midwife asked if I was ready, I said no, which relieved her to tend to a birth of twins. No cutting, natural birth, easy delivery, such a huge difference. My last pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, I had my preborn baby at home, alone, as there was no way to stop, I was blessed to have a very dear friend call me after another friend phoned her to have her help me through the loss. Women can help each other, whether trained or not, most of us have an ingrained sense of right and wrong when having a baby. For me, I have to say a midwife is the best way to go unless there are complications, even then midwives call for help.

        1. Katherine Behr

          To Penelope on Amish midwives

          I am a research dietitian. When I was pregnant, I sought the help of a certified nurse midwife. She had a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in nurse midwifery.
          Friends of mine who also had degrees in biology went through hell in their pregnancies with obstetricians who prescribed antibiotics for a bladder infection which caused vaginal and urinary tract Candida that they didn’t bother to address. After seeing what my friends went through, I chose a nurse-midwife.
          When there was a problem, she sent me to a med school ER. I had a very athletic and active baby who had tangled in the cord and cut off her own oxygen.
          I still think I got better care from the nurse-midwife than I would have from an M.D.

      2. James Staudacher

        I must point out

        That nowhere does it say the midwives care CAUSED the baby death. It is likely the baby would have died anyway. I understand the authorities concerns but feel these women’s success rate in delivering babies in their own community as has been done for centuries,
        is very good.

    2. Jayme Larmon

      Ridiculous

      Delivering babies for 37 years & there’s 1 death (and not at birth)? What are the mortality rates for doctors- in hospitals- over that same course of time, I wonder?

    3. Penelope

      Amish Midwives

      This has been an extremely difficult case. One hand, most Amish avoid allopathic medicine until necessary, and for centuries women have given birth without any medical care. On the other hand, these highly skilled and competent women are obviously well trained in this needed medical field and their infant mortality rate is the lowest in the world. Amish are separate in their walk, as I am in my Christian faith, I prefer to avoid the allopathic field as I find they tend to over medicate based on current trends, drug manufacturer bonuses, and many plain don’t listen. Midwives, Doulas and family can handle it. If I had to do my 4 birthday over (one miscarriage) I would have opted to only use a midwife, trained in common sense. By the way, on using Veterinary grade medicine, it is no different than human medicine, they cannot sell a lesser grade for a prized animal or a pet!
      Since the Amish won’t fight back legally, the government will prevail. Will this stop Amish from their own “doctoring” never. God bless them.

    4. Dale Ann Harsh

      Satistics

      For those who wondered… the current infant mortality rate in the US is 6.3 deaths per 1000 live births. This is felt to be rather high for a ‘developed’ nation but may relate to the multiple cultures and various socioeconomic levels present in the country. A more homogenous nation, Iceland, has a rate of 2.9. Birthing practices are changing here, too slowly for some, and midwifery is making a comeback. ‘Natural’ births are certainly more common now than the ‘advanced’ practice of previous decades when the mother was medicated into oblivion and the baby delivered, by forceps if required, and handed over once Mama woke up again…she doesn’t get to lay around in the hospital for a week either. But, as a general and accepted rule, midwife practitioners are formally trained and have an association with a physician and hospital in the event of complications.
      Amish communities occasionally cooperate with authorities on health matters…as in vaccinating during epidemics. This may be an issue that needs to be considered for that kind of collaboration. As it’s not likely the community will give up their reliance on midwifery in favor of modern medical practices it seems training for those who practice the art would be a good compromise.

    5. WKT

      Another View

      The State is ready to “stop” the possible abuse of babies being delivered by Amish midwives. However, it is unwilling and uninterested in stopping the killing of innocent babies terminated by abortion. Perhaps justice is neither blind nor reasonable.

      1. T. Miller

        The President, the House and the Senate are all pro-life????

        This is hard to figure. The platform of the ruling party in power is strongly pro-life and anti-abortion. The President is pro-life. The ruling party has a majority in the House, which common sense would indicate the House is pro-life. The same can be said for the Senate. All of them have a majority pro-life membership. Soooo what is going on? To top it all off the DEMOCRATS FOR LIFE OF AMERICA is a strong pro-life lobby in the Democratic Party, and has some members in Congress. Something else is going on, obviously. Can we trust ANY of the poiliticians these days? No wonder most Amish don’t vote. The same is so for most Plain People.

    6. Debbie Halcomb

      midwives

      I agree with the sentence. Much worse crimes are given probation over and over again. Banning them from practicing is sufficient punishment for using veterinary drugs in my opinion. Since this was such a publicly tried case I am sure the probation will be scrutinized for the next few years.

      We as a nation have become harsh towards others. I believe if we became more forgiving as a nation, rather than judgmental and angry, lour nation would prosper again.

      Just my opinion, you do not have to agree.

    7. T. Miller

      They pled guilty because.....

      This is a sad case, but the women pled “guilty” becaue they are. They admitted their crime, and I respect them for telling the truth. They ARE guilty as charged.

    8. Tammy

      Amish midwives

      As a (licensed) home birth midwife who works often with Amish (and Mennonite) families, I have had the opportunity to meet with and work with some Amish midwives over the years. This is tireless work and these women serve their communities well often for nothing more than a dozen eggs for all their time away from their own homes and their own families. I would put an Amish midwife’s birth statistics up against any local hospitals any day of the week. I wonder what the local hospital in Sylvia and Lydiann’s area has for maternal and neonatal outcomes – someone should look that up. I bet they have delivered more babies than most doctors in their area. And I absolutely guarantee you that their c/section rate is lower by at least half than the local hospital. Instead of vilifying these women who have spent their lives serving their community -at the community’s request- perhaps the local medical community could find a way to support them and offer to fill in any knowledge gaps and access to equipment they may need.

    9. Thomas Mark Schaefer

      Hospitals no longer trustworthy

      After the recent pandemic debacle and torrent of medical corruption, I’d rather have a baby delivered in a squad car than a hospital. Most state medical boards are paid killers. There needs to be independent, unvaxxed, midwife care readily available. I came here looking for an Amish midwife and found out they are criminalized.