SC House Bill 3731, “the SC Lay Midwife Act,” is currently in committee, and it seeks to redefine the role of midwives in South Carolina, which would effectively shut down their legal practice.
As you know if you know me or read this blog at all, I’m a proponent of natural childbirth. I am thrilled to live in a state in which midwives and home births are legal (only true in 27 states), so that I could have the choice to have the type of birth I wanted (a choice made after years of research, health evaluations and personal reflection). I have nothing against hospital deliveries and I recognize their importance and need – but I wish that all families knew about their options and were able to make a CHOICE about where and how to birth.
Bill 3731, which you can read in full text here, will make it nearly impossible for midwives to do their jobs. It demeans their hours and hours of education, their autonomy, and their relationships with their clients. I oppose the bill personally for a lot of reasons, but I thought it would be more effective to discuss why YOU, dear reader, should oppose it too. My master’s degree taught me nothing if not to consider the audience for any persuasive writing, and so I present to you my arguments, shaped for a variety of audiences who may not otherwise give a flying hoot about baby birthin’ in SC.
The “I Don’t Know Nuthin about Birthin no Babies” Arguments Against H-3731
For Tea Party Republicans
We don’t need more government enacting more bureaucracy over programs that are currently working just fine.
This bill calls for every midwife to be directly supervised by an obstetrician. So that means obstetricians are in control of their own competition. This creates a monopoly, a trust of only one type of business service being offered to SC consumers.
Midwives and the birth centers they own and run represent hundreds of small businesses across the state. To shut them down is to close businesses in communities large and small. Furthermore, home births and births in birth centers cost an average of $4,000, versus the average hospital birth of $8,800. Midwives offer an affordable option for those paying cash or those with insurance. Medicaid currently covers midwives in SC – offering a significant savings for the government.
Midwives are most often hired by the underinsured, the poor, immigrants (legal and not), and religious communities. These people seek childbirth options that are familiar, and they are often passionately opposed to hospital deliveries. They will likely use midwives even if they become illegal, creating potentially dangerous scenarios when extensive medical care becomes necessary.
For the Patriotic
The US is 173rd in infant mortality rates. We are 136th for maternal mortality rates (deaths in childbirth). This from a country that claims to have the best health care system in the world? Clearly, our childbirth system is broken, and it takes very little research to see that all the top-ranking countries use midwives extensively, and most promote and support home births. Why would we want to oppose something that will improve health rates in our country?
For Anyone Working in Alternative Medicine
This bill defines “lay midwives” as people with “little formal training or recognized professional education in midwifery, who learned by accompanying doctors or midwives attending home births.” In fact, SC’s midwives are fully licensed and regulated by DHEC. They work through formal education programs (outlined by DHEC) and complete intense (1:1 or 1:2) apprenticeships that last about 2-3 years. They take a formal examination in front of a review board and then, once licensed, meet continuing education requirements and regular peer review. Thus, the implication is that no medical school training equals no formal training. So that means you chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists and the like are now “lay” workers with “little training.” How does that feel? Should you be watched over at all times by people who went to “formal” medical school?
For Obstetricians (yes, you too!)
There is a shortage of OB-GYNs. Rising insurance costs make this field expensive and difficult. I've heard stories of OB’s being overworked, pulled too hard away from their families, and generally overwhelmed, which added to the expense of running a practice, make many leave the field. So why not share the work with midwives? The midwives can handle the low-risk patients, and you can practice your medical skills with mothers who need your education and experience. It’s not competition when there are plenty of mothers to go around. Plus, do you really want the extra work of overseeing midwives while handling your own patients?
For Women (and Men Who Want to Have Babies with Women)
This is not about where you want to give birth. It’s about having a choice. Whether you want to be drugged into a coma in the fanciest hospital suite around, or alone in your candle-lit bathtub at home, you likely appreciate your chance to make that choice. Let’s ensure that all women of SC can continue to make the choice.
If any of this convinced you, please take action. Here’s what you can do:
- Contact these four sponsors of the bill. Also, contact the committee discussing the bill. When you click on these links, there is another link to send a message to the representative.
- Find the state representatives for your area, tell them you oppose the bill (and hopefully that you are a voting constituent), and ask them to vote NO if the bill makes it out of committee.
- Sign this petition.
- Spread the word. You don’t have to live in SC to speak up and speak out.
Thanks for listening.