Written by Kirsti Kreutzer
So, if a birth center in every community is Our North Star, how do we get there from here? I’ve got some ideas about that! The first (obvious) step is to have legal, autonomous midwives in all 50 states. We need Certified Professional Midwives, Licensed Midwives, Certified Midwives, Certified Nurse Midwives, all of them practicing in every setting! Midwives at home, midwives in birth centers, midwives in hospitals! The key here is the word autonomous, because, as Gloria Lemay pointed out in this blog post back in 2009, when midwives are working in a broken system that requires them to conform to outdated practices they are not truly practicing midwifery. And that’s why we must all join forces and stand together in opposition to those who would deny us access to the kind of care we deserve.
In North Carolina, we have no path to licensure for CPMs and CNMs must obtain a physician’s signature in order to receive a permit to practice. As many of you know, the North Carolina Friends of Midwives (NCFOM) have been working tirelessly since 2007 to get legislation passed to license and regulate CPMs. Last week, they introduced two bills in the Senate – SB106 the Home Birth Freedom Act and SB107 a Decriminalization Bill. If you live in North Carolina, please become a member at NCFOM.org to receive updates and legislative calls to action. We need every voice to be heard, we need to be loud and firm. We want access to midwives in every setting.
In Texas, they had what I would consider one of the best birthing environments in the country. . .until last week. Turns out, there is a new legislator (who happens to be an anesthesiologist) that has a bill in drafting that will re-write the language in the birth center regulations. The changes would eliminate Licensed Midwives from the regulations entirely and would put the physicians squarely in control of birth centers. The bill has not been filed, but the fact that it has even been drafted is disturbing to say the least.
And then, there’s South Carolina. . .a very similar bill was filed by another physician limiting the ability of CPMs in that state by requiring that they have a supervising physician (sign petition here). It would appear that the physicians in this country are going on the offensive in a ridiculous turf war over women’s bodies!
But who could blame them, really? Let’s look at what has transpired over the last few years:
- Last Labor Day, over 10,000 rallied in cities all over the country thanks to the incredible efforts of Dawn Thompson and the folks at ImprovingBirth.org who called for folks to question elective cesareans and early elective inductions.
- On September 20th, One World Birth‘s film “Freedom for Birth” was viewed by over 100,000 people at 1000 screenings worldwide. The film told the story of the ruling at the Hague that determined it is a woman’s basic human right to choose where and with whom she gives birth. It also told the story of the amazing mamas in Canada who marched to the hospital and asked the question “Where’s My Midwife?” in order to get the hospital to grant privileges to their local midwives.
- Women in Australia are marching and organizing to demand access to home birth.
- In January, the National Birth Center Study II was published revealing that women who are seen by midwives in an out-of-hospital setting only experienced a 6% c-section rate.
- With 27 states now licensing CPMs, we have officially crossed the 50% mark. According to the Big Push for Midwives website, there are currently 13 states working on legislation to license and regulate CPMs (NC, MD, IN, MD, DE, AL, MS, IL, SD, IA, MI, MA, NE).
- And let’s not forget the Time Magazine article “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us” by Steven Brill that came out last week which exposes the unchecked greed driving prices in the hospital ever higher.
- Right now, maternity care professionals are holding a conference in DC called “Workshop on Research Issues in Assessment of Birth Setting.”
- Birth Centers like Jennie Joseph’s The Birth Place in Florida is reversing racial disparities by using the JJWay – treating women regardless of their ability to pay and helping them navigate the system in order to get the care that they need.
In this birth activist’s humble opinion, never has there been a better time to march in the streets and start a revolution. If we hold the Birth Center as our North Star, the true way forward for maternity care, we can rise up and demand that the ‘powers that be’ begin to treat women the way they deserve to be treated – with respect and with scientific, evidence-based practices. If you want to be a part of the revolution, join us in July at the Second Annual Birth Activist Retreat in Utah.