A 60-year-old Bakersfield woman who has repeatedly been warned to stop delivering babies without a license — and who has thousands of supporters online — has been charged with multiple crimes related to her work.
Brenda Capps was charged with two counts of practicing medicine without a license, one count of practicing/advertising without a current valid license, one count of dispensing dangerous drugs without a license and one count of false claim for payment of health care, according to a news release from the Kern County District Attorney’s office.
Capps was arrested in November and charged Monday after the California Medical Board “repeatedly warned” Capps to stop delivering babies without a license, the news release said.
In a written statement, David Faulkner, Capps’ attorney, said Capps’ arrest was driven by a Medical Board “controlled by doctors.”
“When midwives like Brenda assist in a home birth, the doctor is cut out and so are the medical expenses. This doesn’t sit well with the Board and this is the result,” Faulkner’s statement said.
The California Medical Board began investigating Capps after she was subpoenaed to testify in the case of Katharine McCall, Kern County Deputy District Attorney Craig Smith said.
McCall was convicted of practicing medicine without a license in August 2011, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. The Medical Board started investigating McCall after a witness “complained that McCall appeared to lack knowledge and experience” at a delivery, according to a Medical Board news release.
Smith said Capps offered a host of reasons why she couldn’t testify in McCall’s trial, including that she had to deliver a baby. She was warned verbally and with a “cease and desist letter” not to continue her practice because she didn’t have a license,” Smith said.
Capps continued to work as a midwife — advertising, contracting with pregnant women and delivering babies — despite the warnings, prosecutors said.
“I would believe most practitioners, when they are orally commanded and in written form to cease and desist, comply. Mrs. Capps has chosen not to,” Smith said.
The Medical Board’s investigation also revealed that Capps failed the license examination twice, the news release said.
In 2001, The Californian profiled an at-home birth that Capps oversaw. That article stated that Capps was not licensed but practiced “midwifery under a religious exemption clause in state law.”
On Tuesday, Christine Valine, Medical Board public information analyst, said there are no religious exemptions for practicing midwifery.
In California, a person must be licensed by the Medical Board to be a midwife or by the state's Board of Registered Nursing to be a nurse midwife, she said.
Smith said if there was a religious exemption it “does not apply to this case.” The prosecutor said neither Capps nor her clients brought up the idea that Capps was operating under that type of exemption in her case.
Capps declined to be interviewed when contacted at her home Tuesday morning and directed questions to her attorney.
Faulkner, a Bakersfield criminal defense attorney, described Capps as a mother of seven children, grandmother of 21 and “an asset to our community for 41 years.”
“On November 15 of last year, agents from the state Medical Board along with Bakersfield police stormed into (Capps’) home with guns drawn, knowing she was there alone. She was forced to sit while her family home was invaded and searched,” the statement said.
Capps was arrested, handcuffed and “paraded up her street in front of her neighbors,” then booked into jail “like a criminal,” the statement said.
Faulkner’s statement said Capps has not harmed anyone.
“She has been dedicated to helping expecting mothers give birth at home, a necessary and safe alternative for our community. Brenda (Capps) fully intends to fight these charges,” the statement read.
Faulkner’s message said Capps and her family are “deeply grateful” for the “incredible support” they have received. Capps’ supporters have rallied around her online. A fundraising campaign site said it had raised more than $8,000 for Capps’ “legal battle” Tuesday afternoon and a silent auction was organized on the blog “Justice For Brenda” to aid Capps’ “defense fund.”
An online petition calling for the Medical Board to “drop the case against Brenda Capps, a traditional midwife” had more than 2,000 signatures on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are writing to urge you to drop the case against Brenda Capps, a traditional midwife who has served families in California for 22 years, and to stop the unjust harassment of experienced midwives who have done nothing wrong,” the petition read.
“Women should have the freedom to choose what type of care provider they have attend them in childbirth, including unlicensed midwives. This is a basic reproductive right.”
The petition is addressed to the California governor, Legislature and Medical Board.
Capps' midwife services are advertised on the website faithbabies.org. The site said Capps has no formal education and that she has worked with a midwife in Texas and Pennsylvania.
Capps' interest in midwifery began in 1990 after a couple from her church asked her to assist with the birth of their baby, according to the site.
“You and your baby will be monitored to insure a safe delivery but free from unnecessary routine medical interventions. I believe a woman is not sick or ill when she is pregnant, so therefore a hospital setting is not always necessary,” the site’s opening page said.