Alabama “Home Birth” Legislation Dead, So What’s Next?

Hannah Ellis, shown here at home with her son, wants Alabama moms to be able to choose a home birth with a Certified Professional Midwife.

Hannah Ellis, shown here at home with her son, wants Alabama moms to be able to choose a home birth with a Certified Professional Midwife.

(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) – As lawmakers prepare to wrap up another session in Montgomery, midwifery supporters in Alabama are frustrated.

Legislation to legalize midwife-attended home birth in Alabama went nowhere this year, despite a big push from those who want change. So what’s next for the movement? Supporters are vowing to keep up the fight.

First, a reminder on where things stand.

Certified professional midwives can legally attend a home birth in Tennessee and several other states. In Alabama though, it’s illegal for a “CPM” to attend a birth outside a hospital. As Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) explained, it’s a situation that “doesn’t make much sense.”

“If a cop is there and helps with the birth, they’re OK. If it’s a fireman and they help with the birth they’re OK,” Ball said, “But if it’s a trained midwife, that’s illegal and they become a criminal.”

According to supporters of home birth and midwifery, most CPMs will not risk prosecution in Alabama, leaving mothers who want an out-of-hospital birth few options. Sometimes they’ll travel across state lines to have the baby. In other cases, they’ll birth at home, alone.

As Hannah Ellis, Alabama Birth Coalition president explained, “Families are giving birth alone, without any professional help.”

House Bill 67 and Senate Bill 99, known as The Home Birth Safety Act, would legalize trained midwives at out-of-hospital births in Alabama.

As WHNT News 19′s Michelle Stark reported in a 2013 series called Birth Options, CPMs often undergo extensive schooling and apprenticeship. They can offer everything from pre-natal care to postpartum counseling.

In Montgomery though, many are skeptical.

“[Midwifery legalization] draws a lot of opposition within the medical community,” Ball said.

In February, Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) successfully moved to table The Home Birth Safety Act – effectively killing any chance for it to advance in the 2014 legislative session.

In explaining his reasons for moving to postpone consideration of the measure, Taylor tells WHNT News 19, “I could not support either of these bills in their current form because they do not provide any regulation, oversight, or accountability for midwives and do not contain minimum standards of care to protect mothers and babies.”

Ellis though, argues each day without a real midwifery debate puts mothers at risk – especially those who are choosing to birth at home or forced to due to lack of access to obstetrical care or hospitals.

“I would ask our opposition who’s saying they don’t believe mothers should home birth to consider the mothers who are and to actually provide a meaningful solution rather than trying to make every decision for them, Ellis said.

The Alabama Birth Coalition urges supporters of midwife-assisted home birth to continue contacting lawmakers in the hope of gaining traction for the next legislative session.

Ball tells WHNT News 19 the sponsor of The Home Birth Safety Act in the 2014 legislative session, also plans to amend the current version of the legislation.

He and others who support change, hope amendments will bring increased support among lawmakers going forward.