Thirty Years Too Long

Journalist Amanda Robert’s story highlighting the homebirth situation in Illinois, says it all in the tag line: “Thirty years later, Illinois midwives fight for birth rights.”

For 30 years the state of Illinois has been aware that some 800 – 1000 Illinois women per year choose home birth and choose the care of a midwife especially trained to attend home deliveries –  a direct-entry midwife (entering the profession directly rather than through nursing – sometimes also called lay midwife).

Thirty years ago midwives and families lobbied the state to license such midwives and were turned down. Every so many years they went back and were turned down again.  Yet home birth persisted.  It did not go away.

Since the year 2000, home birth and midwifery advocates have gone to Springfield for every session under the banner of the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery.  As the Coalition, we’ve developed the language of the licensing bill to reflect the standards of the time. Instead of talking about lay midwives we are talking about CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) – women (or men) with years of training, who have passed a national exam administered by a credentialing organization that is accredited by the very same organization that accredits the nurse-midwives organization.

We’ve gained the support of the Illinois Public Health Association, the Illinois Society of Advanced Practice Nurses, the Illinois Maternal Child Health Coalition, and even the AFL-CIO. And most importantly, we’ve set the highest level of educational requirements for state licensure of CPMs in the nation.

House Bill 226, the Home Birth Safety Act, is currently is gaining momentum in the Illinois House.

Home Birth STILL persists and rates are climbing –increasing 5% from 1990 to 2006, according to the CDC.  It is time for our state legislature to take action and finally license and regulate the midwives who are out there attending it. Thirty years is a long time to stay underground.

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