Posted in Philadelphia Gay News

Upcoming midwifery conference in Lancaster County allegedly prohibits LGBTQ speakers

Upcoming midwifery conference in Lancaster County allegedly prohibits LGBTQ speakers Posted on 08/09/2019

Photo: Midwifery Today Facebook / Camp Andrews Facebook

August 9, 2019

Midwifery Today, a quarterly magazine for midwives that was founded in 1986, is taking on hot water after booking a Lancaster County venue for an upcoming conference that allegedly bars LGBTQ speakers from presenting at the event. 

Nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the publication to move the location of the “Sharing Birth Culture, Growing Midwifery Skills” conference, scheduled for April 15-19 at Camp Andrews in Holtwood, Pennsylvania. Signers are also requesting the magazine diversify the speaker lineup by adding more presentations from people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. 

All but two of the conference’s schedule speakers are white women and none are LGBTQ, said Ray Rachlin, the president of the Pennsylvania Association of Certified Professional Midwives who started the petition on Monday. Discussion topics at the event include “Respect in Midwifery” and “A Day on Trauma and Healing.”

“This kind of discrimination in the midwifery community is unacceptable,” Rachlin, who identifies as queer, told PGN. “We want to let Midwifery Today know that the future of midwifery is not conferences that ban gay people and have almost exclusively white speakers, and we are not standing for this kind of discrimination, especially in my home state.” 

With the slogan “introducing urban youth to Jesus,” Camp Andrews is a Christian campground for youth and adults that also offers facility rentals for retreats. 

“All guest groups shall honor Biblical standards of conduct,” the organization’s policies and procedures state. “This includes, but is not limited to refraining from the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, firearms, explosives, profanity, secular music and videos, and immodest clothing, and refraining from practicing or condoning sexual activity outside of the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The petition features screenshots of a conversation between Midwifery Today founder Jan Tritten and midwives from the region in a Facebook group for the conference. 

chat screenshots.jpg

After group members inquired about the absence of LGBTQ speakers from the event’s lineup, Tritten responded, “Sorry all but in this venue we can’t. Though it is a secular conference our venue is in a Christian retreat center with guidelines that are opposed to this.” 

A group member replied, “Gotcha. Then we can’t be there. Sigh…,” and Tritten wrote, “Sorry. Perhaps another time. This is a very unusual venue for us but so reasonable in price and they give us so much.” 

In recent years, the midwifery profession has emphasized providing inclusive healthcare to marginalized communities, including queer people and folks of color. The National Association of Certified Professional Midwives offers free membership to people of color and LGBTQ individuals. 

The American College of Nurse Midwives previously released a statement supporting “efforts to provide transgender, transsexual and gender-variant individuals with access to safe, comprehensive, culturally competent health care,” citing that up to “one-fourth of gender-variant people avoid healthcare services due to concerns about discrimination and harassment.”

At Rachlin’s West Philadelphia practice Refuge Midwifery, founded in 2017, midwives work with many LGBTQ-identifying patients and train other healthcare providers on evidenced-based reproductive care for trans patients.

The petition states the upcoming conference does not reflect the profession’s inclusivity.

“Choosing a venue with these policies send [sic] a clear message to LGBTQ midwives that we are not welcomed at Midwifery Today’s conference and that our voices do not matter (not to mention any midwife that has have had [sic] sex outside of heterosexual marriage or midwifed for parents that weren’t legally married, who also may be in violation of the venue’s morality clause),” it reads. 

Midwifery Today declined to comment to PGN, instead referring our reporter to the publication’s website. 

event page screenshot.png

An event page on the magazine’s site previously read, “Jan is currently out of the office dealing with family issues. We did speak with representatives of the venue and all are welcome. We will post a statement next week,” but has been deleted since PGN’s screen capture on Thursday. 

PGN asked Camp Andrews representatives a series of questions about the organization’s guidelines and upcoming conference, including whether the facility allows LGBTQ presenters and discussions on queer issues. “Our only comment is that no one is ever excluded from coming to Camp Andrews,” Camp Andrews Administrator Marcus Beiler said in an email.

“Discrimination is not the future of midwifery,” Rachlin told PGN. “Centering the needs of midwives of color, LGBTQ people and marginalized communities is what midwifery is about and also where midwifery is going.”