Friday, February 18, 2011

Why do we need HB207?

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:

Have questions? Just ask: me (at)

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