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Regulating Birth: Midwives, Medicine, and the Law

Keith P. Russell, MD
JAMA. 1987;257(2):252-253. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020118044.
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This book, written by an assistant professor of sociology, is a treatise on the complex forces and factors involved in the licensing process and resultant regulation outcomes. In this case it has to do with those concerned with the licensing of midwives, either lay or registered nurse. The author presents a balanced report on the historical aspects of midwifery and brings the subject up-to-date with in-depth discussions of that practice in three prototypical jurisdictions with different degrees of regulation of midwives. He analyzes the practice in Arizona (regulation through licensure), Texas (loose control and regulation), and California (defined prohibition). The sociological concepts involved in these developments are traced for each state.

Although the book jacket makes the outright statement that "control over women's health care must be returned to women," the author addresses this declaration only through a unilateral discussion of regulation by licensure. One might argue, in the strictest


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