Lawmakers to vote on bill to decriminalize midwifery, allow more home births

crying newborn baby

Having a home birth in Alabama may soon be a lot easier if lawmakers give the green-light to a bill in the state House next week.

HB315, which was introduced by  Moulton-Republican state Rep. Ken Johnson in February, would decriminalize Certified Professional midwives and has been scheduled on Tuesday’s special order agenda.

Currently, state law says it’s a misdemeanor offense to practice midwifery without a license issued by the state Board of Nursing and the Board of Medical Examiners. Meanwhile, midwifery is legal and regulated in 31 states, including neighboring states Florida and Tennessee.

Graphic the Alabama Birth Coalition is sharing on Twitter showing the lack of obstetric availability in Alabama. [Photo Credit: Twitter]

For women hoping to have a natural, home birth or for those without easy access to hospital with obstetric care, this reverse is policy welcome news.

“To see is to believe! Yes! It’s true! For the first time EVER a midwifery bill will get a vote on the floor of the House!” wrote the Alabama Birth Coalition on their Facebook page. “Don’t delay, call your representative today! Call every state representative you can before Tuesday and ask for their commitment to vote YES on HB315!”

Opponents of the bill, claim passing it and having births outside of the hospital is a safety issue.

But Kaycee Cavender, President of the Alabama Birth Coalition says supporting families during pregnancy and childbirth, disagrees. She says legalizing midwifery makes home births safer for both the mother and child.

“It’s important the bill passes because Alabama families are giving birth outside the hospital already. Whether it’s by personal choice or by accident,” Cavender told Alabama Today.  “It’s our duty to make sure these families have safe access to the care they need to make these births safe.”

According to the Alabama Birth Coalition, only 29 out of the 67 counties have a hospital with obstetric care. Of those 29 counties, only 17 are rural.

“It’s not society’s place to decide what’s right for each family. In order to make home births as safe as possible, we must legalize certified professional midwives — they’re specialists and experts in out of hospital delivery and care,” Cavender added.

While Haley Pilgrim, a doula and mother of five from Leeds, has not had a home birth herself she believes having the option to have a safe home birth is all about personal freedom.

“I have not had a homebirth, though I have long desired one, due to the laws in our state criminalizing midwives,” Pilgrim told Alabama Today. “I have precipitous labors and would never be able to make it across state lines to give birth like many other women do to have the birth they desire. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan at the time so I had to wait on childcare and transportation to arrive. The irony was not lost on me that my husband was serving and fighting for our freedoms while I was back at home without the freedom to choose who could attend my birth. I am not against hospital deliveries for those that choose that.”

“Obviously this is about having a choice. All Alabama mothers deserve one, and I can guarantee you that we do not take it lightly! For low risk pregnancies like mine that don’t want or require intervention, it is more of a hassle to have to make that very painful and sometimes long ride to a hospital.”

While Pilgrim doesn’t plan on having any more children herself, HB315 is still personal — she wants to see the Legislature approve it not only women across the state, but also her own daughters.

“I don’t plan on having any more children, but I want this bill to pass for future Alabama mothers- for my doula clients and my two young daughters who may one day give birth here,” Pilgrim added.

At least one state lawmaker is already listening to voices like Cavender and Pilgrim’s and has taken to social media ahead of Tuesday’s vote to voice his support.

Vestavia Hills-Republican state Rep Jack Williams said he’ll be voting yes on Tuesday Friday afternoon.