Council to consider resolution protecting traditional and indigenous birth attendant practices
The council will consider Resolution 23-38 at its meeting on Friday, urging the State Legislature to enact a statute permanently exempting birth attendants from state licensure requirements, Council member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez announced today.
“A law that protects traditional and indigenous midwifery practices from criminality and cultural erasure is set to expire this year,” according to a news released issued by the council member.
Act 32 (2019), Section 457-J, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, provides an exemption that allows birth attendants (midwives) to attend births without state licensure, but this exemption sunsets on July 1, 2023.
“The failure to exempt birth attendants from existing state licensure requirements would disproportionately impact birthing families in rural communities on Molokaʻi, on Lāna‘i, and in Hāna,” Rawlins-Fernandez said. “These families have limited access to hospitals, birthing facilities, and have depended on their traditionally trained birth attendants for decades.”
The resolution, introduced by Rawlins-Fernandez, recognizes that “midwifery is one of the oldest women’s rights issues in history, and the traditional birthing practices of all cultures deserves protection…” Furthermore, it states that a “birthing person’s rights to choose where to give birth and who they want as their preferred birth attendant are integral to providing safety, care, bodily autonomy, and comfort during birth…”
“This is an initiative that promotes families’ rights to bodily autonomy and medical freedom,” said Ki‘inaniokalani Kaho‘ohanohano, founder of Mālama Nā Pua o Haumea, a kanaka maoli traditional birth organization on Maui. “State licensure leads to undermining the credible birthing practices and erasure of indigenous and traditional midwifery knowledge passed down for generations, which have been around longer than the model of midwifery that treats birthing as a business.”
“According to Act 32 (2019) neglected to recognize a category of trained and certified professional midwives and detailed licensure requirements prohibitively difficult for local practitioners to receive,” the news release said.
Senate Bill 1047 (2023) and House Bill 955 (2023) would permanently allow birth attendants to practice midwifery without State licensure, and free from criminality.
To view the agenda for the council meeting, visit mauicounty.us/agendas.