Resolution passes to form committee to address Illinois home birth crisis

Resolution passes to form committee to address Illinois

By JORDAN GRUCZA

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

On May 31, both the House and Senate adopted a joint resolution to form the Home Birth Maternity Care Crisis Committee, a bipartisan committee to address what has been called a growing problem with home births in Illinois.

The bill SJR14 states that it has been demonstrated that “due to deeply held religions, philosophical or personal reasons, some families will always choose to give birth to their children at home.” There has been a 52 percent increase in out-of-hospital births and a 45 percent increase in home births since 2007. The bill points to studies that show that low-risk births attended by trained midwives are just as safe as hospital births, and the heavy restrictions against licensure in Illinois has only led to an underground community of midwives, which comes with its own set of consequences.

“It was a super interesting conversation,” said State Representative Avery Bourne, regarding a meeting with the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives she had prior to the resolution passing. “I came out very supportive of the resolution. It’s been very contentious in the past. They haven’t pushed for a bill in years. At a meeting for this bill there was a story of a baby who died of meconium aspiration, which just doesn’t happen anymore, because there was no licensing procedure to certify that the midwife involved had any training. There’s no distinguishing between the people who know what they’re doing from the people who just say they do.

“I want this to be the task force that recommends a bill for licensure,” she said. “If we see an agreed resolution out of this task force, I think that’s the best possible way so we don’t have people fighting. Because I want the doctors to have a way to have input so that it’s the best outcome for everyone involved.”

Evanston midwife Barb Belcore is an advocate for the bill.

“It came to fruition two years ago because the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives and the Illinois Friends of Midwives have been supporting and pushing legislation about 30 years now,” said Belcore. “The legislators and lobbyists don’t seem to see we have a crisis. There are roughly a thousand babies born at home in Illinois every year and there are not nearly enough  licensed providers in the state to handle all of them. Half of those babies are being born unassisted or with an unlicensed or underground provider in order to have somebody in the home with them when they deliver. Either because providers that are licensed are full or because there are no providers in the county.

Belcore explained that there are licensed providers in approximately 11 out of 100 counties in Illinois. This gap in providers makes it nearly impossible for those who want a homebirth to find a provider, not to mention one who is close to home. One of the aims of the bill is to acknowledge that there is a crisis at all. Secondly, both the Illinois Friends of Midwives and the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives have been promoting the licensure of CPMs as a solution to the crisis of this gap in providers.

“It seems the Illinois State Medical Society disagrees, and they have lobbied hard against our efforts. They testified they are fundamentally against home birth. We testified that this isn’t going to change the fact that people will have babies at home. Like this or not, legal or not, people are seeking out home birth providers.

“Because our legislation continues to put up against us a lot of very wealthy lobbyists who work for the Illinois Medical Society, our efforts transition toward helping our supported legislators develop this joint resolution,” she said. “The resolution is basically an acknowledgement that there is a crisis, that there is a birth crisis in general in Illinois and that home birth is a part of that, and this resolution would address that certain population who need providers at their home births by asking a panel of educated birth providers and constituents to gather together and come up with a solution. So that all happened over the last two to three years, and the not-so-terrific birth outcomes are beginning to come to light.”

Many people may not understand at all why people would choose home birth to begin with.

“It comes down to birth choice,” said Belcore. “Whether people want to have home birth for themselves is very different than would you support someone’s right to choose where they have their baby and with who. People choose home birth for a variety of reasons. With some people, it’s tradition. It’s just been done in their family for generations. Some people have educated themselves on hospital births and have decided it’s not right for them. Some are just seeking a natural birth experience, and some seek natural birth because of a traumatic hospital birth experience that they don’t want to repeat. Some celebrities such as Serena Williams and Beyonce have had terrible outcomes in hospitals. And the reality is, at the moment, these people are choosing home birth whether or not there are licensed providers available to handle their birth.”