2009 PushSummit: Free the Midwives!

Amie Newman

If you are pregnant in Alabama and you'd like to birth at home, you have every right to do so. But don't expect to do it with the provider of your choice.  Midwifery is illegal in Alabama, as it is in 25 other states. The 2009 PushSummit in Birmingham this week will address this and much more.

If you are pregnant in Alabama and you’d like to birth at home, you have every right to do so. But don’t expect to do it with the provider of your choice.  Midwifery is illegal in Alabama, as it is in 25 other states. A birthing woman would be committing a crime by having a midwife – even a certified, licensed midwife – with her.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that The Big Push for Midwives, a national effort to create regulation and licensure for certified professional midwives (CPMs) in all fifty states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, is holding their 2nd annual PushSummit in Birmingham, Alabama this week. 

The Birmingham Weekly reported this week that advocates from over 13 states will gather in Birmingham to share strategies, both legislative and educational, for how to expand access to out-of-hospital birth and the midwifery model of care around the country. 

It’s particularly timely given the fact that we’re now talking national level health care reform. There has never been a more critical time to advocate for expanding women’s options to access the safe prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care providers of their choice. According to The Big Push, we could be saving billions of dollars per year in this country if all low-risk, healthy women (regardless of income level) were given the option to birth out-of-hospital and with the care provider of their choice. Steff Hedenkamp of The Big Push has been verging on heroic in her quest to ensure that everyone understands just what’s at stake. From her statement in March of this year at the Iowa White House Forum on Health Reform: 

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"The Obama Administration could save the country billions of dollars by overhauling the American way of birth, and endorsing the significant value that access to legal and regulated CPMs brings…The recent Milbank report conservatively estimates savings of $2.5 billion dollars a year if the cesarean surgery rate is brought down by 15%."

Hedenkamp does not mince words when she explains exactly why American women find themselves attempting to access a health care system that prioritizes power over evidence:

"The only reason why CPMs are not being utilized in all 50 states to their maximum effect is because a special interest lobby – organized medicine – has been fighting them every step of the way, by its own admission, using "hardball tactics" because, again by their own admission, they can’t win on the merits. They can’t change the evidence."

Meanwhile, this week at the PushSummit, the hard core, grassroots work to expand health care access for women in this country continues. The Alabama Birth Coalition, one of the co-sponsors of the PushSummit (along with the Alabama Midwives Alliance), will benefit from a concert this evening (‘Free the Midwives!’) that will kick off the Summit. The local show will raise funds to help support the passage of a 2010 Alabama state legislature bill to legalize CPMs, as well as to defray costs associated with the conference.

The PushSummit runs from July 12 – 15th. We’re hoping to receive some updates from folks at the conference so check back for more!

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