Judy Jones, quiverfull “midwife from hell,” charged with manslaughter in death of Nebraska baby

Judy Jones, quiverfull “midwife from hell,” charged with manslaughter in death of Nebraska baby January 22, 2013

by Vyckie Garrison

Of all the extreme choices I made while in thrall to the “radically pro-life” Quiverfull philosophy of trusting my reproductive life to God, my decision to attempt a home birth after three c-sections was probably the most dangerous and irresponsible.

Because I had made the commitment to welcome every pregnancy as an unmitigated gift from the Lord, and because I also believed that accepting government assistance in the form of Medicaid was tantamount to trusting Caesar to provide for the health and wellbeing of my babies, I desperately sought an alternative to the expensive surgical deliveries.

I know now that it was absurd for a woman with my health issues and high-risk status to eschew all medical care and trust myself and my unborn baby to an unlicensed “lay midwife” – but I was idealistically motivated, and it made perfect sense to me at the time. In fact, I was absolutely certain that it was God Himself who put the idea in my head and lead me to Judy Jones.

Read the whole horrible disaster here if you don’t mind getting a headache. It’s long, I know – but I felt it was important to provide details of Judy’s incompetent, negligent, and abusive pre- and post-natal care which seriously endangered my life and my baby’s life, and left me so physically, emotionally, and spiritually traumatized that I suffered severe PTSD for over a year and still sometimes have nightmares almost seventeen years later.

Yesterday I learned that Judy Jones has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a baby boy she delivered in Nebraska back in November 2011.

South Dakota Midwife Charged with Manslaughter in Death of Nebraska Baby

By Territory Media

Judy Kay Jones, 65 of Irene South Dakota, was arrested on a Custer County Nebraska Warrant practicing medicine without a license and a warrant for manslaughter.

Jones is being charged with a Class III Felony for Manslaughter in the death of a Custer County infant in 2011 and practicing medicine without a license. It is alleged that in 2011 Jones presented herself to a Custer County, Nebraska couple as a midwife and assisted in the delivery of their infant child (Eli Fenske) in September of 2011; the child later died. The child, Eli Fenske, started having medical problems shortly after he was born, but investigators say Jones failed to perform follow-up tests and did not contact a doctor when the child stopped breathing. …

As the article points out, this is not the first time Judy has been arrested and in fact, she has served time in prison after the South Dakota Supreme Court found her in willful violation of the prohibition against practicing midwifery without a license.

The South Dakota Board of Nursing and the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners have been trying for almost two decades to stop  Judy Jones – who received her training through apprenticeship and self-study – from practicing her own variation of “spiritual midwifery” which amounts to what I call home birth hocus pocus. Sadly, when these unsafe practices result in maternal or infant death, rather than demanding justice, her client families protect Judy and defend her to the authorities.

Why? Because they believe the adverse outcomes are God’s will. To give readers just a taste of the level of spiritual abuse and brainwashing to which Judy’s home birthing moms are subjected, let me share a portion of my own birth story:

Even though we really didn’t have the money for it, I insisted that I needed to go to the OB/GYN. “I can’t handle this anymore ~ I feel like I’m dying!”

I was laying on the couch and Judy got down on her knees beside me and did what she called a “diaphragmatic release” ~ in which she put one hand under my lower back and her other hand on my lower abdomen and then waited patiently while the uterine muscles relaxed. It did calm me down ~ and while we waited, Judy told me a bible story.

She told me about the time when the children of Israel were wandering the in the desert ~ and the Lord was providing for their every need ~ even raining down manna from heaven for them to eat. But the Israelites grew tired and impatient ~ and greedy. They demanded meat ~ and the Lord sent so much quail that the children of Israel were sick of it.

“They had meat in abundance,” Judy explained, “but they suffered leanness of the soul.”

Leanness of the soul … that’s what happens to those who don’t trust the Lord through their trials ~ those who seek “worldly” remedies and don’t have the faith to believe that God will never give us more than we can handle.

I absolutely dreaded the thought of having a lean soul ~ I would not disappoint the Lord by giving in and going to a medical doctor who would no doubt insist on doing another c-section delivery and thereby rob me of the testimony which the Lord was working in my life through this difficult circumstance.

I was convinced that it would be better to suffer and die rather than to seek “worldly” medical attention. And even after my home birth attempt ended miserably in an emergency c-section, I defended Judy and continued to trust her to attend my next delivery in which I actually did give birth to my son at home despite a history of four cesareans.

The safety of VBACs and home birthing is not the issue – although I should add that part of the reason that Judy does not get prosecuted is because women who are supporters of home birth are afraid that all of midwifery will be painted with the same broad brush – so they don’t speak up for fear of it leading to unnecessarily restrictive regulation. Unfortunately the result is that the medical community and law enforcement see dead women and babies as frequent home birth outcomes – and so they push for more regulation.

What’s relevant is the degree of danger to which fundamentalist women will subject ourselves and our children in order to live out the unreasonable demands of a movement which really only values us for our fertility and the ability to produce a quiver full of arrows – i.e., more sons to perpetuate the patriarchy.

My idealism clouded my judgment and left me vulnerable to charlatans like Judy Jones. Although I don’t doubt her sincerity, Judy is a danger to the Quiverfull moms here in the Midwest who seek family-friendly, safe, healthy, God-honoring alternatives to expensive hospital deliveries.

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  • Was she in any way affiliated with Bill Gothard’s goup’s midwifery training?

  • Lisa

    It’s not that she’s a lay midwife that’s the problem, there are some very good lay midwives, it’s that she’s a menace and uses religion to abuse her clients and prevent them from getting medical care when required. I wish there were an easy way for parents to determine who is actually a good care provider and who isn’t. Clearly, having a degree isn’t the answer, since there are also doctors who are abusive and dangerous.

    I hope this woman ends up in jail for awhile & that it dissuades people from hiring her in the future.

  • vyckiegarrison

    Hannah – so far as I know, Judy is not associated with Gothard’s midwifery training.

    Lisa – I should add that part of the reason that Judy does not get prosecuted is because women who are supporters of home birth are afraid that all of midwifery will be painted with the same broad brush – so they don’t speak up for fear of it leading to unnecessarily restrictive regulation. Unfortunately the result is that the medical community and law enforcement see dead women and babies as frequent home birth outcomes – and so they push for more regulation.

  • You have said pretty much everything I am thinking. Thank you for sharing!

  • saraquill

    I am sad that a death was needed to get her prosecuted.

  • vyckiegarrison

    Sadly – this is not the first death that’s occurred. ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶

  • Jackie C.

    I have friends who have had successful home birth experiences so it’s unfortunate a woman like this is giving the whole practice a bad name. Vyckie, I followed your link to your own story with her. Have to say I love the hair first of all. And second, you are lucky you and your daughter are alive. What’s really sad is your own gut and mother instinct were telling you to get more help and as basically a mentor to you, Judy should have affirmed that in you. You were young and she should have encouraged you to listen to your own body. When we’re young, we tend to question ourselves and trust those who appear to have wisdom. It’s wonderful when we have older women with experience who encourage us to listen to our own instincts. I’m sorry she let you and so many others down.

  • Notreligious

    While this particular HB MW is a menace because of her inflexible religion, there are plenty of HB MWs that are just as dangerous even though they are secular. They may not be QF, but they are just as indoctrinated, but in false NCB beliefs: natural is always superior, birth is as safe as life gets, trust birth, that modern medicine causes bad outcomes, and on and on. Sure, there are some good HB MWs, but since theres no way to know, its always a gamble to hire one. Many (like Brenda Scarpino Newport of Ohio, who has killed 8 babies) have multiple preventable deaths under their belts, and go on with no accountibility. The moms harmed, or with dead babies, are just as brainwashed, and usually defend the killers as well. Its tragic.

    HB advocacy and practice has become more extreme in the past few years, and more MWs are acting like is one. It use to be that HB was not for anyone but the lowest risk moms, who are fully informed of the risks. Now, there are high risk births being taken on by so many HB MWs. For example, VBACs should NEVER be done at home, let alone VBAMC, as rupture is a KNOWN risk. 1 in 200 will rupture, which is a death sentence OHH.

    I am SO glad your luck held out Vyckie!

  • vyckiegarrison

    Notreligious – thanks for your comment. I also see many HB MWs becoming more extreme and more dangerous lately. The risk of rupture is real, as I found out in my last delivery (7th child) when I had a partial uterine rupture. I was planning an unassisted home birth for that one since I no longer trusted Judy, but thankfully had by then learned to trust my instincts and when I felt that something was not right, I went to the hospital. Otherwise, it would have been a very tragic situation.

  • texcee

    Up until the end of World War II, it was normal for women to give birth at home. It was also normal for mother and/or child to die. If you’ve ever studied geneology or looked at the burial records of any small town in America, as I have, you will notice a major dividing line in maternal and infant mortality right around 1945. Before that date, the numbers are very high. After that date, they almost disappear. The reason? Because women began having their babies in hospitals with ready medical care and trained professionals. Note that even Michelle Duggar gave birth to her numerous offspring in the hospital rather than trying it at home. It’s one of the few things I admire in her — regular checkups with an OB/GYN and hospital births.

  • Elizabeth

    Holy crap. I had to stop reading your experience because it began to trigger a dissociative panic attack. I cannot imagine living through the experience.

  • Elizabeth

    Isn’t there an association who licenses midwives? I know there is formal training available. What do the quiverful people have against trained midwives?

  • JJ

    How terrible. I have had all 3 of my children at home with midwives but I am very low risk and my births went well. Midwives are supposed to be there to support the mother if she wants/needs medical attention..not tell her some Bible stories to talk her out of it!! Thank you for sharing your experiences here Vyckie.

  • Mary

    I read through your birth story, and I have to say that I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. Judy attended two of my births, and I too ignored my gut instinct about her. I thought the things that went wrong were my fault somehow. She actually pointed out that it was my fault that I gave in and went to the hospital with my last baby. I was absolutely crushed that she felt that way and did not take any blame herself. I really looked up to her at the time, and she took advantage of it. I am only saying this, so that I you can know where I am coming from. I have forgiven Judy completely, and I feel sorrow for her as she goes through this hard time with the law.

    I don’t have a platform on which to say these things, so I am taking advantage of this comment section. My main purpose in comminting is to make people aware of Judy’s husband, Jerry. He is a convicted child molester. He has been convicted in three different states, twice in South Dakota. He is currently in the State Prison in Sioux Falls serving five years for sexual contact with a minor. I wonder if Judy feels the need to control others, because she feels so out of control in regard to her husband. It doesn’t really matter why, I guess. I REALLY want people to know about her husband though, because she doesn’t warn anyone about him. She has unsuspecting mothers with their young daughters over to her home. She even lets him play movies for the children and “watch” them. He is set for release next year in October, I believe. If he lives until then, I want absolutely everyone to know about him, so they can protect their children from him.

  • vyckiegarrison

    Mary, thanks so much for posting. I have been away from the computer for a few days and just noticed your comment. Are you aware of any news articles about Jerry’s convictions? I’ve tried Google and came up blank. Thanks again. Vyckie

  • Mary

    No, but he is on the SD Sex Offender Registry. Somehow he stayed under journalism’s radar.

  • Mary

    He was convicted in Union County, SD back in 1998. I don’t know when his other convictions were, but I am pretty sure they were before 1998. Also, he is not to be confused with another Jerry Jones who is black and was convicted in Union County, NJ.

  • vyckiegarrison

    1998 was the year I had my home birth. I never heard a word about Jerry’s conviction. Judy must’ve worked very hard to cover that up and keep it out of the news.

    Thanks for the info., Mary.

  • Our family has known Judy for years, she is a very gifted and caring person. She has brought many children into this world without incident. I have had 9 children, only one was born at home without incident. We had a couple with complications that were the doctors fault, but you never hear about those. Most of the people that wanted homebirth seeked Judy out, she didn’t solicit them to have home births. She assisted those people that didn’t want to have a traditional birth in a hospital, either by religious beliefs or for what ever reson. She did it as a ministry. I think it is unfair for people to be attacking her without her being able to defend herself.

  • suzannecalulu

    ….and you’re alright with the fact that she has no formal education in midwifery, is not accountable to the state and her husband who’s been there in the home many time while she sees clients is a registered sex offender with at least 5 arrests/convictions?


  • vyckiegarrison

    Hey Steve – I remember you and your family from home church at the Hipps’ and Watterman’s. I hope you are all doing better now – and I hope that your wife is feeling well.

    Did you read my birth story? Most of what I wrote about my physical condition and the way she treated me came directly from the birth notes which Judy wrote herself throughout my pregnancy. I still have the records, and I also have the records from the hospital after I transferred. There is no question that Judy was negligent and incompetent. She is free to defend herself here – but I have a feeling that she doesn’t dare.

    I’m glad to see you here on No Longer Quivering, Steve. I hope you stick around and read some of the stories posted by women (and men) whose lives and families have been severely damaged due to “trusting the Lord” with their family planning as you and I did.

    All the best to you. Vyckie

  • Muver

    I just looked up Jerry Jones on the SD sex offender list, including incarcerated individuals, and did not find him. Slander??

  • Tori

    She should not be doing anything unqualified, this is not “ministry” as you put it, it is MEDICINE.

  • vyckiegarrison

    We included a link to Jerry Jones’ record in the post about his felony sexual contact conviction: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2013/01/judy-kay-jones-full-disclosure-jerry-wayne-jones-sr-registered-sex-offender/

  • Mary

    I don’t know where you looked, but it is here…

    Click on the disclaimer box and click continue. A search box will come up where you type the name, last name goes on top then the first name. You also have to check a box at the bottom that says to include incarcerated offenders.

  • Laura Super

    I left an earlier comment (I’m guessing it’s awaiting moderation) before reading through the comments section here and before reading your birth story and I just wanted to say I’m really, really sorry for what you went through. And I’m horrified about her husband although it isn’t really relevant to her “midwifery” practice.

  • Her husband is extremely relevant to the midwifery practice as the many families that came to Judy’s house had Jerry watch the kids while Judy examined the mother. No child should be left with a known sex offender. At the very least Judy should have informed the visiting families that he was interdicted from being in the presence of children, as this is usually a condition of parole for nearly every sex offender to remain in society, no contact with children.

  • Laura Super

    I don’t know anyone who has been seen by Judy who ever visited her home, with everyone I knew who used her as a midwife she came to them and they would never have met/seen/had anything to do with her husband. I’m guessing what you are referring to must have happened when she was practicing in South Dakota in the early 90s, perhaps?

  • Laura Super

    Just looked at the other post and I see it must have been from the 90s, by the time I saw her she was not seeing any clients in SD.
    Very creepy situation though… I did quite a bit of google research on her/her practice/her history before choosing to use her as a midwife but it would never have occurred to me to research her husband, and the way she talked about him I would have had no idea he was in jail (although I wondered how he coped with the fact that she seemed to live on the road–being in jail would explain a lot…).
    🙁 So messed up.

  • Dan Murray

    Thank you for speaking out in Judy’s defense! I too had Judy deliver my daughter last year. My child is happy and healthy. At no time did I feel uncomfortable with anything she did. This is a sad sad thing that happened, but I find it hard to believe these stories that demonize her. My experience was just the opposite…. Wonderful!

  • Independent Thinker

    Not all Midwives are created equal. It isn’t about the industry but about the level of training. Lay midwives in Arkansas only are required to do a short internship and take one written test. Some midwives have 4 year RN degrees and 2 years of advanced training in Midwifery. Obviously, six years of college and clinical training is going to be vastly different than an internship and a written test. Any professional in any field who feels they are not up to the task should always make a referral to a more qualified professional. The fact that a preexisting condition was present would be a definite indicator that the risk for problems to arise has significantly increased. On the issue of “spiritual midwifery” it is completely possible to give spiritual support in the presence of medical professionals. Plenty of women who can afford it choose to have a third party birth coach to assist them mentally and spiritually through the birthing process. That person is not the one delivering the child however.

  • Sue

    Around 1989 most likely. One of the phone # given to me to reach Judy as I neared my due date with my 3rd child and 2nd VBAC was at the SD state pen. She said she may be visiting there. I did not ask questions but guessed it was to visit her husband who had not been around the times I was at her house to be checked. He was always there on the visits made with my second pregnancy in 1986.
    I had no problems with the way Judy handled my births. I also had regular checkups with my family physician along with monthly visits to see Judy. I did not feel she was negligent in any way but seemed more thorough than my physician and more helpful when it came to nutrition.

  • jenniferjoy

    Deaths dropped after 1945 because antibiotics came in to common use. When birth started to move in to hospitals at the turn of the 20th century childbirth deaths sky-rocketed because of ignorant doctors’ practices (such as the overuse of anesthesia and giving birth in supine positions) and their spread of childbirth fever.

    Of course modern obstetrics has become much more skilled at handling high risk procedures, but most of birth does not have to be high risk – it is made so by the routine practices of obstetricians. How difficult would it be if OBs would simply keep their hands to themselves and allow midwives and families practice doctors to facilitate the majority of births at the place most comfortable/appropriate to the mother and save their surgical skills for when they are really needed? I work at a hospital birth center and though our doctors practice to the standard of care I weekly see unnecessary injuries to both mom and babies caused by these routine procedures – not medical malpractice, just plain old modern obstetrics.

  • Um, I and two friends of mine had beautiful, serene, and 100 percent problem-free deliveries under Judy’s care and one of those friends had frank breech twins. Judy’s other arrests in south Dakota were only because they have strict laws about attending home births, as does Nebraska. Those arrests were not due to any negligence on her part. And if she “almost killed you twice,” why would you even GO to her twice? You can manipulate the facts to make her sound like a monster but it sounds like you weren’t smart enough to do your own research and chose to blame her when you didn’t get the outcome you wanted.

  • aletha

    Educating women, perhaps?