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The 'State' of Midwifery: Pushing for Legalization

Written by Rebecca A. Spence for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

This post is one in a series of pieces RH Reality Checkis publishing to highlight National Midwifery Week 2010 (Oct 3- 9).

Women want out-of-hospital maternity care, and they deserve legal access to midwives trained to provide it. In 23 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) face prosecution for serving women who have decided not to give birth in a hospital. Families in these states are forced into an underground economy of providers whose training and credentials could be difficult to ascertain, and are left without any means to report a practitioner who lacks adequate skills. If they do opt to hire a midwife who is practicing illegally, smooth and efficient transfer to a higher level of care can be compromised in the event that it becomes necessary, putting mothers and babies at risk. That’s why more and more states, pushed by consumers and their allies who are part of The Big Push for Midwives Campaign, are passing legislation to license CPMs.

No federal law, Supreme Court decision, or Constitutional amendment can ensure that we have access to the maternity provider of our choice, because licensing and regulation of health professionals occurs at the state level. The Big Push for Midwives engages with consumers in state-by-state efforts to secure a path to legalization and integration of Certified Professional Midwives. Advocates have been on the ground doing this work for years, and are gradually achieving success. Groups like the Alabama Birth Coalition, Ohio Families for Safe Birth, North Carolina Friends of Midwives, the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery, and Massachusetts Friends of Midwives, and others, are tireless grassroots organizers for women and families who chose to give birth outside of the hospital. Read more