Opinion: Expand Birth Options for Massachusetts Families by Recognizing Midwives

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Attending homebirths in Massachusetts has always felt like an underground profession. I can be a licensed midwife in 33 other states, but not here. As a Certified Professional Midwife who has been practicing for many years, I completely support the bill “An Act Relative to Out-of-Hospital Birth Access and Safety” (HB1189/SB1206).

I became a midwife to serve families. Unfortunately, home birth midwives currently have to deny care to families who cannot afford to pay us out of pocket. Because Massachusetts does not recognize and license my profession, I am ineligible to be reimbursed by MassHealth/Medicaid (40% of births) and most other insurance. Our neighbors in New Hampshire and Vermont can have their home and birth center births attended by licensed midwives and reimbursed by Medicaid.

To address high maternal and infant mortality, rising rates of cesarean sections, and unconscionable racial disparities in birth outcomes, we need more of the care midwives provide: evidence-based, low-intervention, and continuous. Maternity care is a reproductive justice issue, and this bill is broadly supported by leading organizations for women’s rights, women’s health, and social justice, including: ACLU Massachusetts, Amnesty International, Bay State Birth Coalition, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Mass NOW, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Our Bodies Ourselves, Union of Minority Neighborhoods and the Women’s Bar Association. Furthermore, the bill is supported by the major midwifery organizations and with no opposition from medical societies.

All Massachusetts families deserve access to qualified maternity care providers in the birth setting of their choice. Pass the Out-of-Hospital Birth Access and Safety bill in 2018.

Anna Buhler is a certified professional midwife from Jamaica Plain