Midwife licensing bill pulled from agenda


    By Victoria Langdorf

    A bill requiring direct-entry midwives to be licensed practitioners was pulled from the Utah Legislature”s 2002 agenda late last week. Senator Parley Hellewell, R-Provo, was sponsoring the bill, but delayed bringing it to a vote for at least a year as part of an agreement with the Utah Medical Association.

    “The UMA had some concerns about the bill and they wanted to come to a compromise, so we agreed to work with them” Hellewell said.

    “I am disappointed that the bill has been delayed, but I am still very optimistic that it will be passed and direct-entry midwives will be licensed,” said Suzanne Smith, a midwife from Orem and strong supporter of the bill.

    The need for the bill came about after a direct-entry midwife in southern Utah was arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The incident prompted Smith and others to act because Utah law is very ambiguous about what a direct-entry midwife can and cannot do, Smith said.

    Hellewell said the midwives approached him after the Licensure Review Committee approved their request to be licensed. “Some constituents wanted my help,” said Hellewell, so he agreed to sponsor the bill.

    Direct-entry midwives differ from certified nurse midwives because they do not have nursing degrees and they do not get their training in hospitals, said Susan Moray, press officer for the Midwives Alliance of North America.

    Direct-entry midwives have no hospital privileges. Instead, they help the mother give birth in the home, an important option for women, Smith said.

    Smith said she usually assists in the delivery of four to ten babies a month and many of the mothers are BYU students. Some insurance companies cover the costs of a direct-entry midwife, but many do not and according to Smith, the reason is often that the midwives are not licensed.

    Normally, the cost ranges from $1,100 to $1,400 and includes all pre- and post-natal care.

    Moray listed some of the benefits of having a direct-entry midwife. She said midwives are usually more patient when the mother is delivering and allow the woman to deliver more naturally.

    She also said the mother already has built immunities against the germs and bacteria in her home, but at hospitals the germs are foreign and the mother and baby increase their risk of infection.

    Still, Moray said there are some risks associated with giving birth at home, which are clearly explained to expectant mothers.

    Now that the bill has been delayed, Smith acknowledged that direct-entry midwives are still at risk when they help mothers deliver because the law is unclear.

    The legality of direct-entry midwifery is supported only by judicial interpretation.

    “There”s a problem when the law doesn”t clearly say what you can do,” Hellewell said.

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