Utah Midwives demand changes to ‘restrictive’ licensing rules

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SALT LAKE CITY – A decade long ‘turf war’ between hospitals and birth centers is heating up on Capitol Hill.

Owners of birthing centers say they want to provide a safe service to their clients, but the rules are too restrictive and need to be changed.

Some pregnant women choose to deliver in a birthing center, where midwives attend to the birth in a more home-like setting.

“Each year the demand for midwifery care increases exponentially,” said Eve German, a midwife.

There are only a handful of birthing centers in Utah. Advocates say strict licensing rules make it difficult and expensive to operate.

“It's really been kind of a ridiculous battle,” said Rebecca McInnis, who owns the Birth Center in Murray.

McInnis has been pushing for changes to the rules for a decade now. Today, she joined other midwives at the capitol as lawmakers took a closer look at two controversial rules:

-Licensed birthing centers are required to have a written contract with a hospital in case a patient much transfer care.

“Nobody wants to accept liability for somebody else,” German said.

-Birthing centers must have a doctor present at every birth and often times doctors won’t do it.

“It's not in the business model of a birth center or a midwife to be able to have a physician on staff,” said Senator Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork.

Senator Henderson is backing advocates. She says birthing centers want to become licensed, but they’re being impeded.

“It's about competition. There are a lot of powerful players in this that don't want the competition,” Henderson said.

Hospital advocates shoot down claims of competition and says it’s a matter of maintaining safety standards.

“I don't think it's nearly as much a competition concern as truly sincere interest in insuring best care and safest care for mothers and babies,” said Dr. Joseph Miner, Exec. Dir. Utah Department of Health.

Lawmakers are leaving it up to the health department to rewrite the rules before the legislative session ends.

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