MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 315 on Monday, the practice of midwifery became one step closer to legality in the state. The House passed the bill by a vote of 84-11, and it now heads to the state senate.
HB 315 would require that midwives receive certification from an accredited organization in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
Midwives are trained health professionals who assist women in the process of birthing children either in hospitals or in the home. Their care differs from doctors because they rely on more natural techniques and minimal medical intervention.
Under current Alabama law, the practice of midwifery is mostly illegal, and home birth is only legal without a midwife present.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), noted that the bill’s passage is a victory for freedom of choice. “It was a milestone for these mothers who want this freedom and the choice to have natural home childbirth, where it’s not restricted by the government,” he told Al.com.
HB 315 had bipartisan support in the House, and marked the first time a pro-midwife bill has even made it to the floor for a vote.
However, praise has not been universal. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama remains critical of the practice and continues to lobby against it. “The decriminalization of the practice of midwifery will lead to more home births, and we have strong concerns about home birth in this state, regardless of who the provider of that service is,” Mark Jackson, executive director of the association, told Al.com.
Johnson also proposed HB 316, which focuses on the regulation of midwives if the practice is decriminalized. It would create a State Board of Midwifery to craft more specific regulations. That bill has not yet been passed.