House Bill 496, sponsored by State Representative J. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield), seeks to regulate the practice of certified midwives and certified professional midwives.
“Currently, non-nurse midwives in Ohio are legally prohibited from administering lifesaving pharmaceuticals, despite their extensive training. By licensing midwives, we are allowing midwives the opportunity to legally practice at the top of their scope and provide the safest care possible,” Rep. Koehler told The Ohio Star.
As written, the bill requires community midwives to be licensed by the Ohio Board of Nursing with the goal of providing care for their patients in birthing centers and potentially in hospitals where insurance is accepted.
The measure would also expand the authority of the Board of Nursing to regulate licensed certified midwives, including creating conditions for the provision of certain services. It would also require a midwife to practice with a physician and to enter into a standard care arrangement with the said physician. This bill would also create within the Board of Nursing the Midwifery Advisory Council, to advise and make recommendations to the board regarding the practice and regulation of midwives.
Proponents of this bill, such as Koehler and The Ohio Nursing Board, believe that the passage of this bill will be a positive change for Ohioans and that by providing midwives with these resources it will help alleviate the infant and maternal mortality crisis in our state.
The Ohio Board of Nursing told The Star that the Board remains interested in the bill and will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves forward.
The bill does encompass a faith-based exemption to permit certain people groups who have historically utilized midwives in Ohio to continue the care they have become accustomed to.
But the Community Midwives of Ohio have some concerns with the passage of the legislation as it sits currently.
“Having a midwife is something that is natural and goes back thousands of years. This bill regulates them so heavily that it’s going to make it worse on those midwives and worse on the families that depend on them,” Dan Acton, representative for The Community Midwives of Ohio told The Star.
Pam Kolanz , midwife for over 25 years and officer with The Community Midwives of Ohio, told The Star that community midwives have a working relationship with The Ohio Department of Health, and if regulation and licensure are needed then it should come under that board rather than the Board of Nursing. She also said that this bill would criminalize the practices of all non-licensed community midwives.
“This bill in part could be helpful. But it will dramatically restrict their practices. Is the trade-off worth it? Not as much the trade-off for midwives but the trade-off for families? You dramatically reduce options for families by restricting midwifery practices,” Kolanz said.
Another concern brought forth by The Community Midwives of Ohio is the discrimination that only those with a religious exemption have access to a midwife. They believe that it should be legal for anyone to have a midwife even if they don’t practice a particular faith.
In addition, The Community Midwives of Ohio told The Star that the poor infant and maternal mortality rates are coming from the hospital, not from home births.
According to Acton, the amount of training that the bill would require the midwives to go through is extreme, and the training that these ladies get from each other through apprenticeships is generations’ worth of valuable information.
“They need to leave well enough alone,” Acton said. “They are trying to reign in a practice that is working well already.”
Student midwife and doula Hanna Arnett says she believes that there are some good notions behind the bill but that there also needs to be protections for both mothers and midwives to practice or birth how they choose.
“I would love to see this bill do positive for the community when it comes to accessing community-based midwifery care. I would also love for midwives to have more access to medical supplies and pharmaceuticals that want to carry them. However, I also want to maintain autonomy for midwives and mothers choosing midwives, and I think we need to make sure that we’re not stripping anyone of their rights to practice or birth how they see fit,” Arnett said.
The bill is currently under review by the Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “J. Kyle Koehler” by State Representative Kyle Koehler. Background Photo “Midwife Baby Shower” by Tima Miroshnichenko.