This week, the Illinois House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Home Birth Safety Act (SB 3712) to license certified professional midwives (CPMs).
Passage of the bill would allow CPMs to legally attend home births throughout the state. While approximately 800 babies are born at home in Illinois, only six out of 102 counties have legal, licensed home birth providers (CPMs, nurse midwives or doctors).
“As a result, families are resorting to giving birth at home unassisted (the national rate for this increased by 10% last year) or crossing the border to give birth in hotels in ‘legal’ states such as Wisconsin, or working with underground midwives,” reads a petition in favor of the bill.
There are 27 states that recognize direct-entry midwives, 25 through licensure, which is provided by the North American Registry of Midwives.
For the first time in 30 years, the bill made it out of a House committee in May, but passage is far from certain.
“It’s an uphill battle in the House,” Democratic State Rep. Robyn Gabel,the bill’s chief sponsor, told The New York Times earlier this year. Jessica Reaves writes:
That the bill has made it this far is testament to the midwifery community’s newfound political acumen and its first lobbyist, hired by the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery in 2006.
The bill’s opponents, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Illinois State Medical Society and the American Medical Association, argue that home births are inherently more dangerous than births in medically supervised settings. Also resisting the bill, though more quietly, are members of rural midwifery groups that have operated under the radar and off the grid for years, and would prefer to remain that way.
“We just don’t think home is a safe environment for delivery,” said Dr. Jacques Abramowicz, co-director of the Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center at Rush University Medical Center and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Childbirth is very dynamic, and it can be a very dangerous process. In the vast majority of cases, nothing happens. However, if an emergency occurs, it happens very fast — in two, three, four minutes.”
Rachel Dolan Wickersham, president of the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery and the vice president of the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives, is the midwife groups’ lobbyist. She said she was frustrated by the bill’s opponents in the medical community.
“There’s just no room for negotiation,” Ms. Wickersham said. “It’s a turf battle. It’s about power and control. These women are going to have babies at home. There’s no question about that. Why would anyone want to keep the situation so that the person attending them has no regulated training or is afraid to transport them to a hospital in an emergency?”
In the health resource center at Our Bodies Ourselves, you’ll find a statement signed by dozens of physicians, midwives and women’s health advocates who support 1.) expanding options for hospital-based midwifery care (utilizing certified nurse midwives and certified midwives); and 2.) licensing and regulating certified professional midwives in order to make the option of home birth as safe as possible.