HB202: Midwife licensing bill stalls in committee

By Shauntel Forte
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would have required unlicensed midwives to get consent before delivering a baby was rejected by a House Committee during the 2015 legislative session.

HB202,  proposed by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, regarding unlicensed direct-entry midwifes compliance with informed consent requirements, died in committee after the meeting adjourned.

Currently, many Utah families all over the state prefer to have stay-at-home deliveries for a more comfortable and enjoyable environment for the mother and the baby. There are about 100 midwives in the state of Utah and that number is growing with time as the numbers of desired midwife deliveries increase.

Spackman explained the reasons as to which families would choose this form of labor in comparison to the traditional way in hospitals. “A central issue of the family is control. They choose to birth in a more comfortable setting where they have control,” reported Spackman.

Because families have a higher liability risk if anything were to go wrong, Spackman-Moss raised the issue of licensure.

Mandatory licensing of midwives in the State of Utah would make non-licensed midwifes subject to the Department of Professional Licensing and the licensing agency’s policies. Unlicensed midwives have a higher risk of problems during any part of the labor and should always keep the patient well informed of this risk.

“I think this issue is a right to choose issue,” said Sen. Karen Duckworth, D-Magna. “Informed consent is the right way to go about this.”

Many of the committee members agreed that if midwifery is permitted without licensure that families be well educated on the potential risks that come along with home child delivery.

The number of hospital deliveries compared to midwife deliveries in the home is 10 to 1. A smaller number of people choose to do this, but residents do not go into their decision of having a baby at home blindly. “There are a number of reasons why people choose to have their babies at home. You don’t come to that decision lightly.” said Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin.

Due to an uncomfortable situation in the hospital with a previous child, Roberts and his wife chose to have their next few children at home, and they were content with their decision after gratifying experiences.

Other element of the bill discussed by committee members  was whether midwives have to disclose their licensure status.. “Non-licensed [midwives] aren’t currently responsible of attaining a disclosure. We want this to apply to both licensed and unlicensed,” Roberts said.

Many members of the audience spoke up in favor and against this issue including Michelle Sharp, former midwife, who spoke in favor. “I am a mom who has chosen both hospital and homebirth. I no longer practice,” she said.

She discussed how a failure to follow these rules could increase risk to both the mother and the child. “I want to make sure that we maintain the right to choose, even the right to use a non-licensed midwife,” added Sharp.

Later, Holly Richardson another non-licensed midwife and former legislator testified against the licensure of midwives. “I don’t see the need to make this mandatory at all,” said Richardson. “Everyone needs informed consent.”

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