Friday, January 23, 2009

Midwifery bills hit the Nebraska legislature

The Nebraska Friends of Midwives have worked exceptionally hard this year (and last year too, laying the framework) to get 3 bills introduced this session. The bills are all regarding only certified nurse midwives (CNMs), as lay midwives are a whole other hurdle to jump. Little bits at a time, right?

The bills are:
  • LB406- Right now, hospitals in Nebraska can refuse CNMs the ability to apply for privileges at the hospital (including attending births) simply because they are midwives. This bill make it so that hospitals could not deny a health-care provider equal opportunity to apply for privileges based soley on his or her credentials. And yes, this has happened already in Nebraska (namely Norfolk, which simply closed the CNM category in 2002).
  • LB457- This would remove the practice agreement requirement for CNMs. Right now, CNMs must find a physician to enter into a written agreement in order to practice and everything she does then requires the strict approval of an MD. Though CNMs have and will continue to work with physicians and, of course, hand off anything out of their scope of practice, this would give CNMs greater opportunity to practice in different settings. It would allow for birthing centers to be opened, for example, as they are in many other states. In fact, this bill would make Nebraska law consistent with the majority of its bordering states.
  • LB481- This would remove the restriction on CNMs attending homebirths. Homebirth has always occured in Nebraska and will continue to occur. The current law restricts mothers from accessing trained and licensed midwifery care. Currently, mothers who wish to birth outside of a hospital must either hire an underground lay midwife who may or may not be trained properly (and will be supremely hard to find!), travel out of state to deliver, or birth her baby without any assistance whatsoever. In fact, Nebraska has made it a felony for a CNM to attend a birth at home. A felony! Nebraska is one of only 2 states which restricts CNMs from homebirth in statute.
Anyway, they've all now been introduced and we are waiting for a hearing with the Health & Human Services committee. The good news is that we have gained a nice amount of senatorial support. (Did you know that 4 of our senators were actually born at home themselves?) But, we still have a long way to go to get these through committee, heard on the floor, and voted on.

In order to maintain a presence at the capitol, NFOM has been organizing regular "M&M Days" where we go and pass out M&M treats or cookies to the senator offices. Why M&Ms? Because it stands for Mothers & Midwives, of course. We just had one yesterday & I meant to get a picture, but drove off without the camera. The kids got to shake hands with the Lieutenant Governor, though!

We've also been serious about contacting our senators, asking them to support this legislation. I met with mine on January 9th. But even a phone call, letter, or email would help. Please, if you live in Nebraska and care about offering women the full scope of nurse-midwifery care, won't you do your part?

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