‘Let Freida Go!’

    Last year Freida Miller was busted for illegal possession of prescription drugs. A judge threatened to keep her in jail until she agreed to rat on her supplier. He's not having much luck. Miller is a lot tougher than he is. And she has a whole gang of people working for her. They're praying. Miller, you see, is a Mennonite midwife, and the story of this petite, gray-haired woman illustrates what happens when the law is not tempered by mercy -- or even common sense. Miller has labored as a midwife for eighteen years, often without pay. She views midwifery as a vocation -- a calling from God. "It's not a job," she said. "It's a ministry." Last year, Miller attended a birth in Ohio's Mennonite community -- something she'd done some two thousand times. The baby was delivered safely, but the mother began bleeding profusely. Miller administered Pitocin, a drug that controls bleeding, and then took the mother to a hospital. And that's where Miller's troubles began. Midwives may legally administer Pitocin in nineteen states, but Ohio law is silent on the matter, leaving midwives open to charges by overzealous prosecutors. Despite the fact that Miller had probably saved the mother's life, she was indicted on felony charges of practicing medicine without a license and possessing dangerous drugs. Miller pled guilty to drug possession and was given probation. But she refused to reveal who had provided her the drugs, and last October, the judge sent her to jail. The Mennonite community was outraged. Who's the victim in this crime?, they ask. Does Judge White think obeying the letter of the law is more important than saving a life? What does he think Miller will do if he lets her go? Start pushing Pitocin on the streets? Hundreds of protesters arrived at the courthouse -- many of them pregnant. Others carried babies that Miller had delivered. Dressed in white caps and plain dresses, they prayed, sang hymns, and lit candles. One sign read: "Find some real criminals: Let Freida go." It was all too much for Judge White. Show up again, he threatened, and he would really throw the book at Miller. It was an outrageous attack on Miller's rights. As Benjamin Wiker noted in National Review Online, "One suspects the judge has some power issues." Now, that's an understatement. The judge seems to have forgotten the concept of proportionality -- the idea that a punishment should fit the crime. In the Bible, the teaching of lex talionis, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," is not a demand for punishment, but a restraint -- a warning to limit punishment to its proper proportions. In this case, the authorities appear to be motivated by excessive zeal for the law -- not to mention petty vengeance. Their actions are especially outrageous given that Ohio lawmakers are considering a law that would allow midwives to administer drugs. As for Miller -- she's put the whole matter in God's hands. "I don't want to fight for anything," she says. "I just want to fit myself into God's plan." Last Monday, Freida's friends finally raised the five thousand dollar bond and sprang this dangerous criminal. It was a nice Christmas present. An ever better New Year's gift would be to drop the charges and let Freida go back to doing what she does best: delivering babies. For further reading: Benjamin Wiker, "Mennonite Midwife behind Bars," National Review Online, 3 December 2002. Andrea Misko, "Dozens support jailed midwife," Beacon Journal, 28 October 2002. "Jailed midwife released on bond," Associated Press, Dayton Daily News, 17 December 2002. Martin R. DeHaan, Studies in Galatians: Twenty-Two Simple Studies in Paul's Teaching of Law and Grace (Kregel, 1995).


Chuck Colson


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