Childbirth Freedom Act to decriminalize midwives, pave way for home births

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Alabama lawmakers will consider a pair of bills that would allow midwives to work in the state and would pave the way for births outside of a hospital.

One bill, HB 316 by Republican Rep. Ken Johnson, would establish a seven-member state board to oversee and regulate midwives and also allow them to practice independently.

Current law doesn’t allow midwives to legally deliver babies in most circumstances, and home births are only legal in the state if a midwife is not present.

While Johnson’s bill, the “Childbirth Freedom Act,” would allow midwifery in the state for those with the Certified Professional Midwife accreditation, the proposal would carve out more complicated births, such as breach births or twins, to be performed by other medical professionals.

Johnson has also filed a separate bill, HB 315, that would decriminalize midwifery for certified individuals, though practicing without the proper credentials would be a misdemeanor.

Midwifery is legal and regulated in 31 states, including neighboring states Florida and Tennessee, and Alabama is one of a dozen states with a currently active bill legalizing the profession.

Births overseen by a midwife are typically less expensive than in-hospital births

The Alabama bills are championed by Alabama Birth Coalition, and are part of a broader campaign, “The Big Push for Midwives,” spearheaded by members of the trade.

Proponents pushed for a similar bill in 2016, though that bill didn’t contain the same provisions on more complicated births.

Alabama issued licenses to midwives before 1975, and allowed midwives to have independent practices so long as they held a valid permit from the Department of Health, though over the next few years the state stopped renewing licenses and informed midwives they would have to shut their doors.

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