Midwives Fight For Rights, Docs Fight Back


There’s a heated battle going on in New York State right now about the rights of midwives. A Bill– the Midwifery Modernization Act (MMA)- that would make it easier for certified midwives to practice, easily made it though Assembly and State Committees. It was expected to pass into law this week–New York State assemblywoman Amy Paulin, among others, has been a huge advocate of the bill, having had three children with midwives. But it hit a wall. A wall of Ob/Gyns. Specifically, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

As reported in the New York Times yesterday: “the congress challenged the safety of midwife-attended births and suggested that the bill was a ploy to allow midwives to expand their turf and directly compete with them.” Huh? Ob/gyns are in no clear and present danger of having their power usurped by midwives. There’s not even a vague and distant danger of this happening. But the battle between medical and midwifery-guided birth in America runs deep and dirty.

What’s at stake here: The Midwifery Modernization Act would loosen restrictions on midwives by no longer requiring them to obtain a ” written practice agreement” (WPA) from a physician. Removing this requirement is not a radical move: At present, fifteen states have no WPA requirement for midwives. The idea that a trained and certified midwife needs to have a local doctor sign off on her practice is, in my opinion, more than a little whack.

Certified midwives can handle myriad aspects of birth, but they do not perform c-sections. Doctors don’t get a lot of training in handling low risk vaginal births. For these and other reasons, it makes absolute sense that midwives and physicians collaborate. Under this new law, NY State licensed midwives would still consult and collaborate with physicians and refer clients out as needed.

When New York’s St. Vincent’s hospital closed recently, the city’s home-birth midwives lost their back-up. St. Vincent’s was incredibly supportive of local midwives. The midwife who delivered my daughter, and who has been practicing here for decades, is now unable to legally practice in NYC. Funnily enough, who should come to her defense? My ob/gyn! “Doctors are threatened”, she told me at a recent appointment, “it makes me embarrassed.”

Come on people, can’t we all get along?!

You can read more about the Midwifery Modernization Act here and support it here.

photo: SirLyric/Flickr