Photo: Kevin Conboy (flickr)
With the governor’s signature, Indiana will become the 28th state to legalize and regulate midwifery after the House and Senate approved a bill Friday.
This marks the first session when a midwifery bill cleared both houses of the General Assembly. But key roadblocks remained as recently as last week.
Notably, midwife supporters took issue with a provision in the Senate version of the bill requiring doctors sign a supervisory agreement with midwives. The supporters said in the other states where that requirement existed, no doctors could sign it, largely for insurance reasons.
After negotiations between House and Senate authors, the bill now requires collaborative agreements, mollifying midwife advocates. Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) says the legislation helps regulate a practice that is already going on across the state.
“There are many, many people, ladies and gentlemen, that want to do this and we need to make sure that it’s done safely and in an environment that is conducive for the delivery,” she says.
But Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) says the bill will not have that kind of impact.
“We’re changing the practice of medicine and if that’s the public policy of this body, that’s the public policy of this body,” he says. “But don’t think for a minute that safety and infant mortality will drop just because we pass this bill.”
The measure requires four to six years of education or clinical training for midwives, licensing them through the state’s Medical Licensing Board.
It requires mothers under the care of midwives to see a doctor in the first and third trimesters and only allows low-risk pregnancies to take place in the home.
Bloomington Midwives Support Bill’s Passage
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Midwife Mary Helen Ayres says she has been behind the bill since it was first proposed 20 years ago.
“The bill passed because the families who have their babies at home really really worked very hard,” she says. “They’ve worked hard over the 20 years, but especially this year. The families who have had their babies at home really made the senators and the representatives at the state house hear them and it was a great great example of democracy in action so we’re feeling pretty giddy about that.”
Still Ayres says the bill is not the ideal proposal she and other legislators had in mind. The proposal gives midwives a certification, not a license and requires them to have liability insurance.
“It’ll be interesting to see if insurers are willing to give unlicensed, certified yet still not licensed, practitioners, if they are even willing to write a policy that covers us and then of course if it’s so expensive that it essentially prices out of our clients’ market,” she says. “But again all of this is still to be seen and we’re going forth in complete good faith.”
Doula Georg’ann Cattelona says legalizing midwifery will open up more options, not just for midwives, but for mothers-to-be as well.
“Really women labor best in the place where they feel the safest,” she says. “A woman’s going to have the best outcomes. She’s going to make the transition to motherhood. Her partner’s going to make the best transition to parenthood. When they feel like ‘wow, this is what we really wanted’ and we are moving forward with that.”