Atlanta; December 11, 2019: A well-known midwife and midwifery advocate filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Nursing today, saying that the board is violating her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for truthfully describing herself as a midwife.
Debbie Pulley is one of the most qualified midwives in Georgia. She started attending births in 1970; she helped found the Georgia Midwifery Association, which established standards of care for midwives; she earned her certification as a Certified Professional Midwife from the North American Registry of Midwives in 1995, on whose board she currently serves; and she received a commendation from the Georgia Secretary of State for her contributions to healthcare. Now she spends her time advocating for access to midwifery care.
Despite all this, Georgia insists that Pulley can’t use the word “midwife” to describe herself unless she has a full-fledged nursing license from the Board of Nursing. Pulley was ordered to cease and desist, and she was threatened with $500 fines if she uses the word — clear First Amendment violations.
“Georgia’s gag order is flatly unconstitutional,” said Jim Manley, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents Pulley. “The state can’t keep Debbie from truthfully speaking about her qualifications and experience. Other licensed professionals, like medical doctors and lawyers, are free to discuss their work even when they aren’t actively practicing. It shouldn’t be any different for a midwife.”
Pulley is represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation. More information is available at pacificlegal.org/midwifery.
Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.