Midwives voice concerns over possible birth center regulations

Alabama is the worst state to have a baby, according to a new report from Wallet Hub.
Alabama is the worst state to have a baby, according to a new report from Wallet Hub.(Erin Davis)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 7:23 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama is the worst state to have a baby, according to a new report from Wallet Hub. And Midwives across the state are concerned that new rules the state’s department of public health wants to implement could possibly worsen the situation.

The rules would affect birth centers where women can give birth outside of a hospital setting.

Birthing centers are an unregulated industry in Alabama and the last set of regulations were removed in 2010 because there were no centers in the state.

The Alabama Department of Public Health held a public hearing to give midwives, doulas, and mothers who’ve experienced their care a chance to hear their stories.

“Bonnie was born at home under the care of a certified professional midwife in 2020,” said Megan Matthews.

“I have fought for my business and my career in my town. Our birth center did not open, but it opened my eyes,” said Katie Terry, a birth worker in Florence, AL.

Terry says her eyes were opened to the misinformation people have around birthing centers.

“We are the experts in maternal health care. We know the needs of our communities. This is our profession,” she said.

A profession she and other public commenters say is threatened by proposed regulations for birthing centers from the ADPH.

Alabama native Linda Walton is a practicing doula.

“It’s a little heartbreaking for me because there’s no place like home,” said Walton.

Walton practices in Georgia because, according to the Alabama Birth Coalition, there are currently no freestanding birth centers in Alabama.

“Midwives actually were the foundation of our state,” said Walton.

Walton is concerned because part of the new regulations would mean midwives can’t work in a birth center, and a center can’t be more than 25 miles from a hospital

“We lived in a really rural area, everybody used the midwife,” said Walton.

Only one comment seemed supportive of having rules. A representative from the Alabama Hospital Association says some guidelines are needed.

“I think that there’s safety involved. Hospitals are not systematically opposed to birthing centers,” said Steven McCormick.

Advocates also say the rules were drafted without speaking to actual providers of community birth centers.

WSFA reached out to ADPH to learn why the state wants to regulate this industry now and heard back after our story aired. The department sent the following statement regarding why they want to regulate birth centers.

“ADPH is charged under Alabama law with the responsibility to regulate certain enumerated health care facilities, as well as “other related health care institutions when such institution is primarily engaged in offering to the public generally, facilities and services for the diagnosis and/or treatment of injury, deformity, disease, surgical or obstetrical care.” Under Alabama law, no one may establish, conduct or maintain such facilities without first obtaining a license from ADPH.”

There is no set time for returning the rules to the State Committee of Public Health. The department will accept public comments until Sept 2.

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