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Missouri Lawmakers Consider Midwife Bill

A debate over making it legal for lay midwives to practice in Missouri is currently being discussed in the Missouri Senate. The Bill would make it legal for lay midwives to help deliver babies at home. KSMU's Emily Nash talked with the bill sponsor and a doctor about this bill.

A legislative battle over lay midwives' rights to practice independently has been underway in Jefferson City for 10 years.

Direct Entry Midwives, or lay midwives who help with home births, are not allowed to practice in Missouri.

The Senate Bill is sponsored by Republican John Louden.

Louden says, his bill would allow lay midwives to practice and require them to have national certification.

Supporters of the bill say right now women are forced to break the law if they want to give birth outside of a hospital.

Louden says, the bill would give women the option to have their babies at home with a lay midwife.

Even though lay midwifery is allowed in 40 other states, there are some doctors in Missouri who think it isn't a safe practice.

Those who oppose the bill say lay midwives are not medically trained to deliver babies safely.

Dr. David Redfern is an OBGYN physician in Springfield.

Redfern says fifteen percent of home births have to be transferred to a hospital because of birth complications.

He says doctors should see the mother during her pregnancy and work cooperatively with the lay-midwives.

Redfern says the bill needs amendments requiring lay midwives to have liability insurance, cooperative practice agreements with doctors, and vigorous medical training before they are certified to deliver babies.

He says women should have the right to have their babies where they chose, but their safety should not be compromised.

Lay midwives have been unable to practice legally in Missouri since legislation passed in 1959 declaring midwives had to meet certain certification requirements to practice.

Women now have the option to use certified nurse midwives to help deliver their babies at home.