It is an exciting time in Alabama for women who want the option of having a home birth attended by a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Two events occurring in the last two weeks are important steps toward making that hope a reality.
Two weeks ago, I attended a meeting hosted by the Huntsville chapter of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network). We heard four midwives from surrounding areas answer questions regarding out of hospital birth options for women in North Alabama. All 4 were Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) who often see clients from Alabama who birth in Tennessee. These mothers are willing to travel across state lines for midwifery care. Multiple topics were addressed in the panel discussion, and approximately 50 women attended.
This week, the House Health Committee held a public hearing on HB601 on March 19 in Montgomery. Representative Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery) is the sponsor. A similar bill, SB99, sponsored by Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman), was heard in February in the Senate Judiciary committee. It was defeated when Representative Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) moved to table the bill and the majority agreed.
North Alabama CPM Chloe Raum said, “Mothers are going to keep having babies. One-size-fits-all hospital birth does not meet every mother’s needs. The current law does not make home birth safer. It actually increases the risks to moms and babies.” Many concerned Alabamians echo Chloe’s cries for decriminalization of CPMs; Karen Gable, a mother and grandmother in Cullman calls for women to have a choice and the right to have a midwife attend births without fear of prosecution in an interview with CBS Channel 42 in Montgomery. In an interview with the Times Daily in January, Governor Bentley said he isn’t opposed to the North AL lawmakers’ efforts to legalize midwifery as long as some rules are in place. Governor Bentley is a retired physician and knows how quickly things can go bad when emergencies go unrecognized. He also said, “I feel that midwives that at least have the proper training, that have backup so that if there are any problems, they could get the mother-in those 1 or 2 percent of births-to the hospital quickly, (then) I have no problems with that.”
It is legal for Alabama mothers to choose home birth. It is NOT legal for a licensed, nationally credentialed professional to attend and assist during birth. As explained in a previous article on the subject of midwifery, the Alabama Birth Coalition and Alabama Midwives’ Alliance have been hard at work for the last 11 years trying to legalize midwifery in out-of-hospital settings, as it once was, by licensing CPMs. It was made illegal with the passage of the nurse-midwifery law in 1976 and midwives have risked prosecution for attending births at home ever since.
In the public hearing, Representative Hubbard told the story of a 22 year-old first time mother who went into pre-term labor while on shift at McDonald’s. She went to the bathroom and another employee, the fry cook, came to help after telling someone to call 911. She was viewed as a hero for helping the mother deliver her baby. He said that if a midwife had been in the restaurant at that time and went to assist with that birth, she would have done so under the threat of criminal prosecution. It is absurd that Alabama law singles out and criminalizes midwives for simply doing their job. After the hearing this morning, Representative Hubbard posted the following quote on his Facebook page: “Thanks to all the good midwives of Alabama who showed up today for the public hearing on HB601. We should be prosecuting the real criminals, not trained and certified professionals who protect the health and safety of mothers and babies.”
Please call your Representative today and ask him or her to support HB601 by telling Health Committee members that constituents need this bill to pass.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN