October 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Hoffman Article Examines Birth Activism and Independent Midwifery in Oregon

Dr. Bruce Hoffman

Dr. Bruce Hoffman

Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Associate Professor of Sociology, authored an article on “Birth Activism, Law, and the Organization of Independent Midwifery in Oregon” in the Oregon Historical Quarterly (Special Issue: Regulating Birth). 117 (2): 198-231.

“Many birth activists have long perceived Oregon as an enviable place for independent midwives,” he writes in his introduction. “It was a relatively early state to devleop and organize what in the late 1970s was described as ‘practical’ or ’empirical’ midwifery, and until recent years, independent midwifery enjoyed a status outside the law in Oregon…. Such a story conceals, however, the extend to which independent midwifery in Oregon has developed in the shadow of law and through interaction with national midwifery projects.”

Abstract: This article explores the development of birth activism and independent midwifery in Oregon, from its emergence in the countercultural atmosphere of the 1970s through the passage of “voluntary licensure” legislation in 1993. It traces the emergence of birth activism in Oregon and the struggle to develop a state organizational structure that was consistent with members’ commitments to birth, in opposition to national movements they perceived as replicating the authority structures of organized medicine. It then explores how legal uncertainty was experienced by activists during the 1980s and ways in which the Oregon Midwifery Council organized in response, including involvement in passage of a voluntary licensure law in 1993. The author mined newsletters of local and state midwifery organizations and conducted oral history interviews with Oregon birth activists.

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