A bill was proposed earlier this year by members of the Utah state senate, Margaret Dayton in particular, which would have severely restricted the number of women who could choose a licensed midwife as a maternity care provider. They claimed they were simply trying to define what "normal birth" was and clarify a law that was passed in 2005 which gave midwives the ability to become legally licensed to practice in Utah, but their definition of "normal" somehow only included a very small percentage of women. Nearly all of the women involved with the Utah Friends of Midwives, many of whom have successfully given birth at home multiple times with excellent outcomes, would have been required to be referred to a physician under this bill.
The state division of professional lisencing and Utah's midwives had already spent two years clarifying their rules for licensure defining when they must refer their clients to physicians, etc. These things were already taken care of by the proper groups. This recent bill was simply trying to do what had already been done, but doing it in a much more restrictive way. And, it is interesting to note, that the bill was created by a woman who spent many years as a labor and delivery nurse, married to an obstetrician. It was also written by the Utah Medical Association whose membership includes many obstetricians. We can only assume this had a lot more to do with a "turf war" than concern for safety.
I wrote the following on a Utah State Senate comment website:
I am a mother of two--both hospital births. I am not a midwife nor do I have any relatives who are midwives. But I am a concerned person who finds it highly unsettling to see the rights of Utah's women so trampled upon. Whatever happened to the limited government and freedom the Founding Fathers fought so long and hard to ensure? . . .
I am concerned that Senator Dayton and those responsible for this bill have so little faith in mothers. I am concerned that they do not respect women enough to expect that they can make responsible decisions for themselves and their babies. Even if you disagree about the safety of homebirth, it is not your place to infringe upon mother's rights and require that they do what you may think is best. You say you are not restricting women's rights to choose, but the ramifications of this bill will do exactly that.
Thousands of unnecessary c-sections and other questionable medical interventions occur every day in hospitals in this country--putting mothers and babies at increased risk. So do not tell me that you are doing this out of concern for safety. If the medical community was really concerned about safety, hospitals would completely revamp their policies and most obstetricians would completely revamp their practices. We aren't so behind in the world's infant and maternal mortality rates because we've been making the safety of mothers and babies a priority. We certainly haven't made it a priority.
The issue here is not whether hospital or home is the safer place of birth. And I don't believe that is why the bill was initially created. The issue here is will we uphold freedom and have respect for the women and mothers of Utah, or will we trample upon their freedoms by essentially legislating their place of birth because we feel that they are incapable of acting responsibly?
Fortunately, this bill did not pass in the recent legislative sesssion, but supposedly Senator Dayton is "reworking" the bill for a comeback. Thank goodness for the outraged response of Utah's midwives, the Utah Friends of Midwives, and other concerned Utahns.
I'd like to quote Marsden Wagner's account, testifying in behalf of midwives in California who were trying to pass a midwifery bill:
I recently testified before a state legislative committee in California on pending midwifery legislation. Among other things I said in my statement that midwives are perfectly capable and that planned home birth is a healthy option for many women. I finished by suggesting that if anyone said otherwise to the committee, they should ask, "Where are your data?"
Thirty minutes later, a representative from the California Medical Association stood before the same committee and said that midwives are less safe than doctors for low-risk pregnant women and that home birth is not safe. Lo and behold! One of the legislators on the committee immediately asked, "And does the California Medical Association have any data to support your statements?" Not surprisingly, it did not (there are none). Instead, the spokesperson retreated to the familiar position: Trust us, we're the California Medical Association. That legislator took note, and the midwifery legislation was eventually passed. Slowly but surely, times are changing (see Marsden Wagner's Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First, p. 35).
Thank goodness for freedom and concrete scientific evidence.