HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Alabama Birth Center, a freestanding birth center located in Huntsville, will be allowed to continue to provide midwifery services in North Alabama.

The Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court issued a ruling Saturday compelling the Alabama Department of Health (ADPH) to issue “timely” licenses to freestanding birthing centers offering midwifery care.

A group of midwives and doctors filed a suit against the ADPH in August, claiming the department made it nearly impossible for birthing centers to obtain licenses. The case stated that the ADPH was telling the centers they needed to obtain hospital licenses.

Birthing centers typically provide out-of-hospital midwifery care to low-risk pregnant patients.

“We are pleased that the court put an end to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s unlawful and dangerous de facto ban on birth centers, allowing the dedicated providers in this case to offer pregnant Alabamians the essential health care they need in birth centers throughout the state.”

ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project staff attorney Whitney White.

Research conducted by the March of Dimes, shows only 21 counties in Alabama offer complete access to maternity care.

Researchers consider Lawrence and Franklin Counties in North Alabama to be maternity care deserts. A maternity care desert is defined by the March of Dimes to be a county in which women’s health care services are either absent or behind an access barrier.

Other birthing centers allowed to continue operating in the state following this ruling include Oasis Family Birthing Center in Birmingham and Birth Sanctuary in Gainesville.