A group of mothers and home-birth activists are speaking out in opposition to a bill in the Ohio legislature that would regulate non-licensed community midwives.
A group of 1,200 Ohioans, who call themselves Dayton Natural Parenting say they are watching House Bill (HB) 496 closely and are working with many Ohio midwives to spread awareness to their clients about the potential repercussions if this bill passes in the state.
HB 496, sponsored by State Representative J. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) 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.
“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,” Koehler told The Ohio Star.
But Community Midwives of Ohio have concerns with the passage of the legislation as it sits currently.
“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,” Pam Kolanz midwife for over 25 years and officer with The Community Midwives of Ohio, told The Star.
Carly Baker, an Ohio home birth advocate, and administrator of Dayton Natural Parenting, shares the sentiment that if passed, this bill primarily impacts parents who opt to give birth in their homes and their families.
“Women choose to give birth at home for many reasons. I had a c-section in 2012 with my oldest child. Since then I have had 2 very successful home births under the care of unregulated midwives. If licensure was to pass in Ohio my ability to legally home birth attended by a midwife is gone. I am not the only one that would lose my current right to hire any midwife I choose and decide where I give birth,” Baker told The Star.
Koehler claims there is not a problem with infant or maternal death under the care of home birth midwives in his testimony in support of HB496. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a high percentage of home birthers are considered high risk.
According to the Midwives Alliance of North America, the statistics of unregulated home birth midwives are far better than hospital numbers with 89.1 percent of home births having safe outcomes with positive benefits.
“Regulating all midwives and forcing every high-risk mother to birth in the hospital forces those women under the poor statistics of the hospitals, causing worse outcomes overall,” Baker told The Star.
According to Scientific American, studies show that midwife-attended births compare in safety to physician-attended ones. They are associated with lower rates of C-sections and other interventions that can be costly, risky, and disruptive to the labor process.
So far, 36 states have licensure for midwives in the U.S, three of which have specific wording to protect the right to choose. Texas, Utah, and Illinois. Most recently Illinois in 2019, with their bill stating: “HB5629 Section 10. Exemptions. (c) Nothing in this Act abridges, limits, or changes in any way the right of parents to deliver their baby where, when, how, and with whom they choose, regardless of licensure under this Act.”
“The best solution would be to allow freedom of choice to encourage as many mothers to give birth at home as possible. Since there is no problem with unlicensed midwives operating in the state and there are those who want licensure-why can’t both exist?” Baker told The Ohio Star.
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.