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Bill Legalizing Midwifery Still Faces Roadblocks

A change proposed to the bill would require midwives to have a doctor sign on as a supervisor.

midwife

Photo: Emily (Flickr)

A midwife checks a baby's vital signs during a routine checkup.

For the first time, legislation legalizing and regulating certified professional midwives has passed both houses of the Indiana General Assembly. But there are still major hurdles to overcome before the bill becomes law.

Twenty-seven states license and regulate certified professional midwives. Indiana law currently only allows midwives who are registered nurses.

Legislation proposed by the House would license midwives through a newly created midwifery board, charging the board with developing standards, continuing education requirements and peer review procedures. The Senate’s version more strictly regulates the practice, licensing midwives through the medical licensing board.

Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis), the bill’s Senate sponsor, says one of the most important changes her chamber made was requiring a written agreement for physician supervision of midwives.

“It’s important to me; it’s important to my colleagues in the Senate,” Miller says. “There’s some effort here from the House to want to potentially water that language down, and I think that may well be the number one issue of conflict in the bill right now.”

A change proposed in conference committee allows unsigned collaborative agreements between doctors and midwives. Kathy Williams, who represents certified professional midwives, says requiring the supervisory agreements would render the bill useless.

“Across the country, doctors are unwilling to sign these agreements,” she says. “In the four states where it’s required, they can’t find doctors who will sign them.”

Williams says both physician employers and malpractice insurers balk at allowing their doctors to sign supervisory agreements.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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