Home Birth Bill in Senate Prompts Demonstration on Maui

February 10, 2014, 9:50 AM HST · Updated February 10, 12:48 PM
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Home birth supporters on Maui carry signs in opposition to a bill before the Senate that seeks to establish licensing requirements and other restrictions on the practice. The demonstration was held on the lawn fronting the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Home birth supporters on Maui carry signs in opposition to a bill before the Senate that seeks to establish licensing requirements and other restrictions on the practice. The demonstration was held on the lawn fronting the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A bill seeking to establish licensing requirements for home birth providers, and limitations on clients with normal to low-risk pregnancies, is scheduled for a Senate committee meeting this afternoon.

The bill has drawn criticism from midwives who allege the bill is flawed with “dangerously incorrect information” and is a “health and safety hazard to mothers and babies as well as a transgression on mothers’ medical, religious and constitutional rights.”

A group of midwives on Maui will join in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against the bill during at a gathering from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. today, Monday, Feb. 10, at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

A group of supporters of midwives on Maui joined in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against SB2569 during at a gathering at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

A group of midwives on Maui will join in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against the bill during at a gathering from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. today, Monday, Feb. 10, at the state building in Wailuku.

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Senate Bill 2569 would require home birth providers to be licensed beginning on July 1, 2015, and meet minimum educational and training requirements. The bill seeks to establish a home birth safety board to adopt rules and protocols for home birth providers.

Under the bill, the safety board would investigate complaints concerning violations of its regulations and take disciplinary action when necessary. The bill also requires licensed home birth providers to use informed consent documents with their clients and to follow record keeping and reporting requirements.

Those who crafted the legislation say the purpose of this Act is to improve home birth safety.

According to an online petition against the bill, which had 1,495 signatures at last report, opponents claim the measure, “creates a monopoly in healthcare and will eradicate the safe practice of home birth and midwifery in Hawaiʻi.”

A group of midwives on Maui will join in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against the bill during at a gathering from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. today, Monday, Feb. 10, at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

A group of supporters of midwives on Maui joined in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against SB2569 during at a gathering at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

The petition further claims that the bill “would all but make midwifery and home birth illegal in the state of Hawaiʻi,” and, “infringes on patients’ rights” to medical privacy.

The sentiment was also expressed by the Midwives Alliance of Hawaiʻi. According to the organization’s website, the alliance states that, “Hawaiʻi should be leading the way in fostering diversity, collaboration, and culturally appropriate maternity care, not following the backward examples of states with a long history of denying women access to the care providers of their choice.”

A group of supporters of midwives on Maui joined in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against SB2569 during at a gathering at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

A group of supporters of midwives on Maui joined in a demonstration supporting their profession in solidarity against SB2569 during at a gathering at the state building in Wailuku. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Under language in the bill, lawmakers say, “national data reports a two to three fold increased risk of neonatal mortality with planned home birth versus hospital birth, and that multiple preventable neonatal deaths have occurred in Hawaiʻi.”

The petition against the bill counters this claim saying, “In fact, it is well and widely known that international data supports the fact that planned home birth has similar if not better outcomes than planned hospital births.”

A separate version of the bill, SB2569, SD1, does not include reference to the data in the original measure, but still limits home births to clients with low-risk pregnancies, establishes licensing requirements, and establishes a home birth board to investigate complaints. The effective date of the SD1 version is Jan. 1, 2016, if passed unamended by the Legislature.

The group is also voicing opposition to SB2070, that would require naturopathic physicians to obtain a certificate of specialty practice from the board of naturopathy prior to practicing naturopathic childbirth attendance; and SCR25, that requests the auditor to assess the probable effects of licensing and regulating home birth providers.

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