Sunday, May 22, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Mississippi Friends of Midwives is pushing you to go to Jackson and you might be wondering why. Aren’t the calls and emails enough? Aren’t other people going and talking to the legislators?
Last year, a bill was introduced that would have restricted childbirth attendants to OBs and CNMs (Certified Nurse Midwives) in hospitals. This would have made the Direct Entry Midwives (DEMs) that attend home births in MS illegal. The bill went right through the House of Representatives and over to the Senate without hesitation. Just then, word spread to the home birthing families in MS about the legislation and there was a strong outcry against the bill. Senators let the bill “die in committee” by not bringing it up for a vote by the deadline.
Fast forward exactly one year….After a lot of hard work by MS Friends of Midwives and the MS Midwives Alliance, House Bill (HB) 207 has been passed by the house and now sits in the hands of the very same, Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee with that same deadline approaching, March 1st. (Learn more about the bill and why it is important here: http://biancawooden.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-do-we-need-hb207.html )
The Medical community is at the Capitol every day lobbying AGAINST our bill. Women in Mississippi have enjoyed the right to birth at home with the care provider of their choice since the beginning of time. However, there are organizations in our state (such as the Mississippi Medical Association) that are working to see that right taken away. The organizations that tried to make home birth illegal last year did not give up. They are working to kill our “pro-homebirth” bill and take another shot at eradicating it next year.
We need your help to make a change. The legislators of MS are somewhat supportive of home birth and are willing to consider a law to recognize midwives and their role in the maternity care system. We have some momentum and we need to keep it going and gain the favor of the Senators.
Lobbyists are at the Capitol EVERY DAY trying to kill this bill. Are you going to let them stamp down families that support the right to birth at home. We KNOW the system of maternity care needs to move forward and accept women who choose to birth at home. Do something about it.
The deadline is March 1st. If we can’t convince the Senators in the Public Health and Welfare committee to bring this bill up for a vote, it dies. All of our hard work and money is lost. And, our opposition will be poised to make direct entry midwives illegal next year.
The future of midwifery care is in your hands. I know you are busy, taking care of a hundred responsibilities. So am I. But, this is your chance to make a real difference in our state. It is the consumers that have the power to make this change, not the midwives.
Our state legislature is in session 12 weeks. We are halfway through with a SPRINT to the finish line. THIS WEEK IS THE MOST CRITICAL TIME TO BE AT THE CAPITOL.
If you are saying, “I want to help, but I just can’t go.” We are here to help! Call a board member and let us know why... you can't afford gas, you don't have reliable transportation, you need help with your children, you don't feel comfortable talking to a Senator or maybe you are confused about the bill.
Whatever the reason, we are here to do everything we can to get you to Jackson! Let us help!
There are a handful of people who have dedicated A LOT of time to getting us this far. Don’t let their work be in vain.
Bianca Wooden: 228.233.0686
Vanessa Dudley: 228.282.3346
House Bill 207 will require midwives attending out of hospital births in MS be Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). These are direct entry midwives that attend births in birthing centers or homes. Currently, one midwife in the state is a CPM and a few are working towards that certification. (We are not talking about Certified Nurse Midwives who practice in hospitals)
You may be surprised to learn that many women in Mississippi have planned home births . The CDC recently reported an increase in home birth of 3.5% in one year. In Mississippi the number of out of hospital births is steadily increasing. Women choose to give birth at home for personal, religious or cultural reasons. This will not change if it is made illegal. Women will continue to give birth at home regardless of the legal status.
Here is the real surprise. Currently in MS, midwifery is granted an exemption from any regulation. This means, the state allows the practice of midwifery without any training or skills assessment. Anyone can put an ad in the phone book and declare themselves a midwife. This is even more of a problem because surrounding states require licensure. Mississippi has become an asylum for unsafe midwives fleeing states with regulation.
27 states use the CPM credential for licensing. No state has ever recinded a program using the CPM as the standard for confirming a midwife’s skills. The CPM credential is administered by NARM (North American Registry of Midwives). This is nationally accredited certifying agency. The certification requires a rigorous educational and training process including a clinical internship that takes a minimum of 3-5 years to complete and a national board exam.
This law will create a mechanism for families choosing home birth to verify their midwife’s credentials. MS Department of Health will maintain the list of registered midwives. There is a grievance process for midwives that do not practice safely. This will protect families.
Why would anyone oppose this bill? The argument against this bill is from OBs and Nurses. Their professional organizations work actively to make home birth illegal and say that it is unsafe. However, it has been proven time and time again that Home birth with a CPM is safe. CPMs only work with the lowest risk clients. The pregnancies are evaluated regularly and any client that is not low risk is made aware of her situation and advised to consult with an OB.Do you think women have the right to choose where they give birth? If the answer is yes, then it is our ethical responsibility to provide a safe system for those women – not ignore that segment of society (as our opponents would like to see).
What might if the law does not pass? Women will continue to give birth at home.
• Most likely, a group that opposes home birth, will introduce legislation to make midwives outside of hospitals illegal.
• If midwives are made illegal there are quite a few negative results – which are REALLY scary.
o We may lose the best midwives we have. The midwives that take this profession seriously may leave the state or close their practice.
o Without a supply of professional, skilled midwives women will give birth without anyone. I hear this all the time. “If I can’t find a good midwife, we will do it without one.”
What if the law in MS does not change at all - just stays the same? Many people are under the misconception that the current "exemption" provides protection for families and midwives. From a legal standpoint, the current law does not protect anyone. When the tides turn, organizations against home birth can excerpt pressure to have midwives arrested and home birthing families investigated by child protective services. We have seen this happen in other states with laws such as ours.
Mississippi Friends of Midwives is leading the grass roots effort by consumers to pass this legislation. Join the effort here: http://www.msfriendsofmidwives.org/newsletter.html
Have questions? Just ask: me (at) biancawooden.com
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Just because we passed the House, doesn’t mean we get a break for a half time show.
I am in constant amazement at what home birthing families have accomplished in the last 12 months in Mississippi. You stopped a bill that would have restricted birth attendants to only OBs and Certified Nurse Midwives (resulting, in no homebirths). Then, you got organized and decided to get more proactive.
Now, we have proposed legislation that has been passed by the State House of Representatives (woo hoo!) The bill (HB207) is now in the hands of the Senate. The Senate committee on Public Health and Welfare will (hopefully) hold a hearing on the bill, then vote on whether or not the full Senate will have the chance to vote on the bill.
What have we learned in the last 6 weeks?
1 – Legislators don’t seem to want to pass ANY new legislation. They only address issues that are important to their constituents (YOU). In order to even get a committee hearing we have to let them know that this bill is IMPORTANT to their constituents.
2 – Legislators have VERY full plates. When in session, they vote on up to 50 bills a day. They simply do not have time to educate themselves on HB207. Emails may get a glance, but CONVERSATIONS are what really gets the job done.
We are back to square one. The Senators have hundreds of bills before them. Most have no idea that there is a midwife bill on the table, what it is about or who supports it.
1 – EMAIL: send emails to all of the Senators. They probably won’t read it, so put something like, “VOTE YES for the Midwife Safety Bill, HB207” in the subject line.
2 – CALL: Call your Senator over and over until you get him/her on the phone. Ask them to support the bill and tell them why. Then, listen to them. Find out what hesitations they may have about the bill. Answer their questions.
3 – GO TO JACKSON: Take a day off work, take the kids out of school – do whatever you have to do to get yourself to Jackson. Calls and emails are nothing compared to a face to face conversation. We have days scheduled when you can join a group at the Capitol. But, if that doesn’t work for you – go when you can. Let us know that you want to go and we will do everything we can to help you. Those in-person conversations are so extremely valuable that we will do anything we can to help get you to the capitol.
I assure you, our opposition has people in Jackson, talking to the Senators, telling them that home birth is not safe and should not be “endorsed” by the state.
Find your Senator here: http://www.capitolconnect.com/demoassoc1/legislatorsearch.aspx
Learn about him/her here: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/members/ss_membs.xml
Get Talking Points here: http://www.msfriendsofmidwives.org/advocacy.html
Ask for assistance from a Board Member here: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/note.php?note_id=176397355716428
Thursday, February 3, 2011
My head is brimming with new information – I don’t know when I will ever use this knowledge again. Perhaps I can publish a pamphlet, “A Citizen’s Guide to Lobbying for Legislation in the MS House of Representatives.” I wish I had such a guide a few months ago.
It is worth noting, there are guides for getting legislation passed. There is even a guide specifically for passing legislation to “legalize” Certified Professional Midwives. I read it, but somehow, you just don’t get all the little details until you are in it.
So, if you are interested, here are a few of the tidbits, I picked up on during my 2 visits to the capitol.
1 – The legislators really don’t care much about any bill until it is “in their hands.” Which is likely a very short period of time. You have to focus on the people that have your bill at that time.
2 – You can’t really be upset about #1. Thousands of bills are introduced every year and it doesn’t make any sense for them to try and gain an understanding of those bills since the vast majority will never even go for a full vote.
3 – Finding the Senators and Representatives in offices is a futile effort. The offices are tucked away here and there throughout the building in random locations. Also, I use the term “Office” loosely. Some use what appears to be a former broom closet. Others are tucked under the stairs in the basement.
4 – Once you actually locate the office, it is a shot in the dark if they will be there. They are busy busy busy . And, if you go one day and think you have the schedule figured out, don’t count on it staying the same the next day.
5 – Monday’s get started late because they are driving in from their weekend at home. Things slow down early Friday, so they can drive home. Depending on what deadline is approaching, determines how much time is spent in meetings, hearings, or “in session.”
6 – You can call your Rep out to speak with you when s/he is “in session.” And honestly, this is your best chance of actually finding them and getting their undivided attention.
7 – If you want to give something to a Rep (or to each Rep) the best way to do that is drop it off to the “Senior Page” who has a desk outside the entrance to where they go into “session.” This is infinitely easier than go around trying to leave something at their desk. We learned this after several hours wondering around the capitol.
8 – You are more likely to have meaningful interactions with legislators if you can catch them at the free hotel breakfast. Yesterday, we had 2 useful conversations during our 6 hours at the capitol. Vanessa spoke to 4 Reps at breakfast today. And, they actually engaged in conversation.
9 – No one ever commits to a yes vote (except the sponsor and co-sponsors). They act agreeable and interested, but don’t actually say they will vote yes. (or no, for that matter).
10 – They all look to each other to see how to vote. In the general session, they vote on approx. 50 bills a day. There is no way that can have a full understanding of each and every bill. So, there are “leaders” in different areas. They look to certain people to see how they vote. With our bill, we have heard that our sponsor, although a newbie is “bright” and people are impressed that it even made it out of “Holland’s committee.” They look to Holland and the women to see how they will vote on this bill.
11 – People have power. I am guessing that when a Rep is sitting in session and our bill comes up a few things might go through his head. Holland is for this bill, I got a couple calls on this bill from my constituents, I got a bag of fresh fruit from the organization that support this bill, I met someone down in the rotunda who supports this bill, and ?? is against this bill. Then, they make a quick decision. Those calls from constituents are important. And visits from constituents are even more important.
12 – Speaking of food – the legislators get lots of free treats and meals. Many desks are lined up with goodie bags from special interest groups. But, most of it is candy. They really appreciate something different, like fresh fruit and sandwiches.
13 – You have to have some gumption to get anything accomplished at the capitol. Sometimes you have to say, “Are you a Representative?” Or, you have to ask one of the very few assistants what is happening and what to expect next. Because, they know what is going on. Or, you have to open a closed office door and leave something on a desk. You have to be a little more forward than you are in your daily life.
14 – When you are at the capitol, smile and say “Good Morning” to everyone you pass. You never know who they are. But, you do know one thing, they are involved in politics in some way.
I recommend EVERY ONE goes to the capitol to see how our system works. I have a new respect for the elected officials. They are working hard to do what is best for the state. They hear a lot from special interest groups and very little from the citizens in their district. And, they WANT to hear from you. So, go visit them. Introduce yourself; tell them what you stand for, what your life is like. Then, sit in on a hearing or go to the gallery and watch them discuss and vote on a few bills. (Let them know you are there and they will recognize you on the house floor). Like I said, they are very proud when their constituents actually show up and get involved. So, go.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
So, you want to help. Now is the time. We have spent a year reaching out to build are community of supporters. Now, we are in a sprint to the finish.
1 – Make sure you get up to date info.
Sign up for our newsletter, so you get the latest info in your inbox. http://www.msfriendsofmidwives.org/newsletter.html
If you want to get more involved with the discussion on how we communicate, organize events, reach out to the public, details of the bill, and conversations with the legislators – Become a paid member at https://www.bigtent.com/groups/msfofm for just $15.
2 – Send emails, make calls and write letters to the legislators that are considering the bill. Right now, the bill is before the 29 members of the Public Health and Human Services Committee. In order for the bill to move to the House of Representatives for a vote, they must have a hearing and vote in favor by Tuesday, Feb 1st. Get contact info for this committee here: http://bit.ly/ii6Xwh
3 – This is REALLY important. Attend a hearing (or all the hearings). The calls & emails are the motivation for the legislators to actually attend the hearing. The testimony and sheer number of people at a hearing is what makes them engage and vote for a bill. You don’t have to speak, just stand there in the room for an hour or so. If you are coming going to the capitol, call you friends and convince someone to ride along with you. If people do not show up in large numbers, the bill dies. That is just how the system works.
There are some other things that will help get this bill passed:
· A home in Jackson where out of town guests can spend the night (and save the cost of a hotel).
· Babysitters in Jackson who can volunteer to watch children (in their home and at the capitol), so others can go to the capitol (although, you can take children with you).
· Someone to write and distribute press releases locally, or across the state.
· People willing to do TV or radio interviews.
· People willing to reach out to political or parenting bloggers, groups etc and gather support. The more supporters the better. This is a consumer issue that applies to every resident of MS – so if you can set a date for a speaking engagement, fantastic. If you can set it up, but don’t want to speak, we can find someone who will.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
So, I plopped down in the seat in Room 103 unsure what I would say or if I even had the energy to form a sentence. This was my first time attending a hearing. It was even my first time speaking to a representative in person. I am not a lobbyist or activist. But, this bill is important to me, so I renegotiated my duties and have squeezed this in to my list of responsibilities. Of the 16 members of the subcommittee, only 3 were present for the hearing today.
Thankfully, there were at least 10 other women there today who did the same thing. They spent up to 8 hours in the car to drive there and back, they found babysitters, they rearranged their budget to find gas money, they took time off work, they made this a priority. Several women spoke in support of the bill: consumers, midwives, student midwives. They spoke honestly and from their heart - the passion shined through. The main message was what we have been saying all along.
• Women give birth at home and hire direct entry midwives, the women of MS deserve a system that will allow them to verify the competency of a midwife and file a grievance against incompetent midwives.
• MS needs direct entry midwives , but we need to define what a direct entry midwife is exactly, and it makes sense to use the NARM (North American Registry of Midwives) recommended CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). We didn’t want this law to eliminate the midwives currently practicing, but we do want to move forward to improving our standards.
• Currently practicing midwives are vulnerable to prosecution under our current legal situation. In other states similar to our, midwives have been arrested and jailed.
• By having a law that defines a direct entry midwife, our state will be more protected against opposing forces introducing a law to restrict births to hospital only.
After we got those points across, the Department of Health (DOH) spoke. First, they recognized that direct entry midwives and home birthing families have a place in MS and the DOH wants that practice to continue. Everyone in the room seemed to agree with that. Next, what they said made me nervous. She went on to explain that the DOH currently regulates 17 professions and it is a very expensive and intensive process to do. She said, there would have to be OB oversight and they simply don’t have the money to do this. Well, this was news to me, because how I had understood the bill, a volunteer board made of midwives, consumers and a Dr. would handle all that. The bill was written specifically so that it would not cost money or need oversight – It was to be a self regulated by the Midwives Board. The DOH held strong that if it is under their wing, they are required to oversee it – and that means OBs regulating home birth. I don’t think any one in the room wanted that . Certainly not me, and not the legislators or the DOH.
Then, Rep. Omeria Scott started brainstorming a bit. How can we accomplish all these goals at no cost and keep the DOH out of it? After some back and forth questioning, she proposed that we simplify. She suggested that the state require all midwives obtain a CPM credential. Those CPM are required to “Register” with the DOH (a Registration, not a License). And, since almost all currently practicing midwives are not CPMs, give them until 2015 to become a CPM. That’s it.
Well, HELL YEA, Of course thats what we want. That is what we wanted all along, all that other hoopla was in there because we thought we needed that to get the bill passed.
I walked out the door, ecstatic. Thrilled with the amended bill. If passed, this bill would improve the midwifery care in our state, it would establish a career path for women to become midwives, it would protect us from incompetent midwives using our state as a safe-haven and it would provide a little protection against a bill to make direct entry midwives illegal. (see note at the end).
So , now what? Honestly, my husband is wondering when I am going to get back to my regular work – keeping the laundry clean, the fridge full, homework completed and dinner on the table. My 6 year old wants her full time mommy back. And Caprie doesn’t want to spend 6 hours in the car again. Family, you are going to have to wait a little longer. I am going to give this all I have got. I don’t think I will be able to do it again anytime soon, so I must capitalize on the momentum we have to keep going. I can't do it alone. I can't do it with the dozen or so women that are fully engaged. We need more people or all is lost.
Here is the Reality. This amended bill needs to heard and voted on by the full Public Health and Human Services committee no later than Tuesday, Feb 1st. That is a house rule. Then, there are more steps (each with deadlines). If passed by the Committee, it will go to the floor of the House for a vote. Then, it moves to the Senate where it goes to Subcommittee, then Committee, then the floor of the Senate. This all happens by the end of March – 10 weeks.
I learned today that calls and emails are great. (Rep. Coleman told me before the meeting, “I don’t know how I feel about this bill, but I got a lot of emails about it, so I am going to hear what you have to say.”) And, it is important to have media coverage (The Legislators pay attention to what is in the media, the morning radio piece was even referenced in the hearing). But, it is CRITICAL that people show up in Jackson when there is a vote (like today). A friend of mine, had her 3 children in the car for 6 hours today and didn’t speak at the hearing, but her presence in the room meant a lot to those Representatives.
We need you!!!! My next post will explain EXACLTY how you can help.
Note: During the hearing the Representatives insisted that they would NEVER let home birth be eliminated from our state, they would always protect midwives and home birth. There was an immediate uproar, “YOU voted to outlaw homebirth last year in this very committee.” 2010 HB695 passed through the subcommittee, committee and to the house floor where it was voted in by a very large margin. They apologized for that. : )