Senate Urges States To Ban "Rebirthing" Therapies
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 18, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging all 50 states to enact laws banning "rebirthing" therapies.
Critics of the therapies, which attempt to reenact the birth process so that adoptive children will "bond" with their new parents, point to at least five cases in which children have died from the treatment.
Senator Ken Salazar, a Democrat from Colorado, and Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, sponsored Tuesday's resolution, the Rocky Mountain News reported.
Salazar was Colorado's attorney general when he successfully argued to uphold the convictions of Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder who were convicted of reckless child abuse resulting in the suffocation death of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker.
Candace, who was diagnosed with learning disabilities and mental illness, was brought by her adoptive mother, Jeane Newmaker, from Durham, North Carolina to Evergreen, Colorado to go through the two-week "rebirthing" process at a clinic Watkins and Ponder operated.
During the final session, Candace was wrapped in a cotton sheet from head to toe, to simulate a mother's womb, then surrounded by pillows. Ponder and Watkins, along with other staff members, leaned into the pillows, while Candace was to fight her way out like a baby would in a real birth. The theory was that Ms. Newmaker would be there to comfort Candace after her "birth".
A videotape of the one-hour session showed that -- in spite of her screaming that she could not breathe, needed to use the bathroom, and had vomited on herself -- the unlicensed therapists would not release Candace. They also apparently mistook her lack of struggling as a lack of cooperation: Twenty minutes had elapsed from what investigators believed was Candace's last breath to when the therapists took the sheet off of her.
Watkins and Ponder were both sentenced to 16 years in prison. Salazar challenged their later appeals, which were rejected by higher courts.
Jeane Newmaker and therapy assistants Brita St. Clair and Jack McDaniel all pleaded guilty to criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death. Newmaker was sentenced to four years of probation and 400 hours of community service, while St. Clair and McDaniel were each sentenced to 10 years of probation.
Both Colorado and North Carolina have since passed laws banning "rebirthing" therapies.
"'Rebirthing' death of Candace Newmaker" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)