Importing Midwives and Exporting Babies: Illinois’ Little Secret Gets National Attention

Illinois midwifery and home birth have gotten a lot of national attention lately. In late August, there was a Time Magazine article on the controversies surrounding home birth in the U.S.A. In the opening paragraph, there was a description of an Illinois home birth mama who eventually jumped the border to have her baby in Missouri because the home birth situation in Illinois was so full of angst.

Late last week, the New York Times published an entire article about Illinois home birth. The title was (to us activists) exciting and provocative – “Use of Midwives Rises, Challenging the State to Respond”. This article features an Illinois student midwife who crossed the border, moving to Wisconsin to complete her education and work legally. Also in the same article, is an Illinois mama who moved to Wisconsin to follow her midwife.

Is there a pattern here??  Yes – moms and midwives crossing the border into friendlier states. It’s as if there are signs at the border pointing AWAY from our state   →  This Way To A Better Birth.

This is only half the story, however. The Coalition for Illinois Midwifery is also aware of women bringing midwives IN to Illinois. Although not clearly stated in the NYT article, some of the mamas interviewed actually imported their home birth midwives from other states. And they’re not the only ones. Over the past several years Illinois home birth mothers have brought midwives in from Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Oregon, Montana, California, and probably quite a few more.

Bringing a midwife in or taking a jaunt across the border are both viable options for women, but are they really the best options?

Comfort is an issue. Anyone who remembers the last few weeks of their pregnancy knows the last thing they want to do is take a long drive anywhere, much less in labor.

Safety is an issue. Should a woman need a higher level of care, her imported midwife is unlikely to be familiar with the local options. And for mamas who have traveled, ending up in a strange hospital, miles from their supportive network of friends and family, can negatively impact their well-being.

Pride is an issue. Can we not serve our own?

With national attention finally on the subject, we can hope that our state legislature will find it in their hearts to make sure that women who choose home birth in Illinois, have enough providers willing to serve them. Given that we have at least 30 years of evidence that nurse-midwives and physicians cannot and will not meet that demand, it is time to recognize those who will and assure that they have met national certification standards. Licensure of certified professional midwives (CPMs) is the only way.

Otherwise we’d better start building those border signs.

Homebirth Safety Act Update

Happy New Year!

Sadly, Illinois’ legislative session has come to a close and the Homebirth Safety Act – SB385 – did not make it out of its committee. A new session has begun and now the bill starts over. Stay tuned to find out if it keeps the same number. In the meantime, if you have not contacted your state legislators (senators and representatives) to let them know that you support licensing direct entry midwives, please do!

Update Part II:  We have a new bill and a new number for the Homebirth Safety Act: HB 226. For more info on advocacy and the Srpingfield rally visit Illinois Families for Midwifery.

Action Alert in Illinois

Work to license direct entry midwives in Illinois has been happening for many, many years. The state nurses association has recently changed its position to neutral on the current bill in the legislature – which is a hugely positive development. This could be the moment we make it happen!

If you support the option for pregnant women in Illinois to have safe homebirths with midwives of their choice, please take a moment to look up and call your state representative to ask him or her to vote yes on SB385 in the last two days of this session: January 12th or 13th. Please also consider joining the two-day rally in Springfield to show your support in person.

Buyer Beware

The Chicago Tribune printed this story on Tuesday about a local woman whose doctor reportedly denied her pain meds in labor and told her to “Shut up, close your mouth and push.”

He reportedly also berated the hospital staff. I wonder if that is newsspeak for he yelled at a nurse. So not cool to yell at the nurses. No word on whether the hospital staff will be attending any of the court proceedings in her civil suit against him.

UPDATE: Here is a more detailed outline of the allegations against Dr. Peirce.