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Midwifery to gain legal status

The Indiana House and Senate voted Friday to legalize midwifery after a decade-long battle.

It is currently a felony to practice midwifery without a license in Indiana. Generally midwifery entails helping a mother give birth at home.

Proponents have been pushing for years to lift the ban on the practice. More than 1,000 women a year in Indiana have planned home births and supporters contend legalizing the practice will make it safer.

“Hopefully this will allay the fears of many who have said a person needs to give birth in a hospital,” said Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary. “Many people want to do this and we need to make sure it is done safely.”

House Bill 1135 creates direct entry midwives, and sets training and educational requirements for the new profession. The Medicaid Licensing Board will license and oversee the midwives.

The big sticking point in final negotiations on the legislation was how involved a doctor should be in supervising the midwife. The compromise requires a direct entry midwife to collaborate with an area physician. That informal agreement must be registered with the state.

The bill also contains provisions requiring at least two visits to a doctor for an expectant mom; emergency plans and protocols for administering a limited amount of prescription drugs; and the midwife must have liability insurance.

Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville – a doctor – told his colleagues that the infant mortality rate improved greatly in the 1930s and 1940s when births were moved to a hospital setting with doctors on hand.

“I don’t think this will change infant mortality within the state of Indiana one iota, and I wanted you to be aware,” he said.

The House passed the bill 69-26 and the Senate voted 38-12. Gov. Mike Pence now gets to weigh in.