MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to allow certified non-nurse midwives to deliver babies in the state, something that has been against the law since the 1970's
Advocates have lobbied for years to change the Alabama law they said limits women to hospital births or going it alone at home without assistance. Representatives approved the bill on an 84-11 vote. It now moves to the Alabama Senate where it faces an uncertain future.
Rep. Ken Johnson, the bill's sponsor, said midwives have successfully delivered babies for centuries and could provide a needed option, particularly in areas where hospitals and doctors are scarce.
"Let's face it. Alabama, we are 49th in infant mortality. Nearly all other states have other options but us. We've got to give health care back to these rural communities. So many communities don't have a hospital within an hour," Johnson said.
Currently, it is misdemeanor for anyone other than a doctor and a licensed nurse midwife to deliver babies in the state. The bill would allow a midwife with a certification from an organization accredited by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence to deliver babies without violating the law. Lay midwifery would remain a criminal offense.
While the bill passed by a lopsided margin, it got criticism from some lawmakers who questioned if the midwives would receive adequate training.
Rep. Elaine Beech, a pharmacist who voted against the bill, said most medical professionals have to go through extensive training.