Oye. I hate that I even have to write this today, but here it is – the Certified Nurse Midwives in our state have filed a bill in the house (H204) that will increase the penalty for non-nurse midwives practicing in our state. So, if the CPM bills that are currently in the Senate do not become law this legislative session and the CNM bill does. . .all of the non-nurse midwives practicing in North Carolina could be charged with a class one misdemeanor. Currently, the charge for practicing midwifery without a license is a class three misdemeanor. The CNM bill, as it is written, adds the charge of practicing medicine without a license.
When NCFOM Legislative Chair, Lisa Fawcett, contacted the NC affiliate of ACNM regarding this language, she was told by their lobbyist, “Thanks for passing this along. The section Lisa cited would have the effect of increasing the penalty for practicing without a license from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor. It was added to satisfy a request from the sponsors that the bill increase the penalty for those unlicensed providers who continue to practice midwifery in violation of the law.” Uh, yeah. There are midwives in our state practicing without a license, but not for a lack of trying. The North Carolina Friends of Midwives have been trying to get legislation passed to license and regulate CPMs for the past 6 years. I know because I have been helping them, and because my midwife closed her practice to focus on lobbying efforts. She has spent the last three years driving two hours to Raleigh three days a week to educate legislators about why we need to license and regulate CPMs in North Carolina. These women who are “practicing midwifery in violation of the law” are serving a growing population of families who want to give birth at home. And they do so at great personal risk because they know it is a woman’s basic human right to decide where and with whom they give birth.
What makes this situation even more disappointing is the fact that the leadership of NCACNM know the history of the fight to get licensure for CPMs in our state (for a thorough recent history, watch from about 46 minutes):
In January of 2010, “Where’s My Midwife?” hosted a quarterly meeting for NCACNM and invited Wendy Dotson to speak. Wendy is a midwife in Virginia who told the story of how the Friends of Midwives in Virginia were so close to passing legislation to license and regulate CPMs, that the CNMs decided it was time to lift the physician signature requirement from their licensing language. Wendy told how the Friends of Midwives asked the CNMs to wait until they got the CPM bill passed, then they would turn their grassroots efforts to helping the CNMs get the job done the next year. And that’s exactly what happened – in 2005, the CPM bill passed and in 2006 the CNMs got what they wanted as well. Win/win. NCFOM offered to do the same thing here for the CNMs – let us get the job done, then we will help you. Instead, NCACNM decided to do what was best for themselves, not what was best for the families of our state.
So, why did the CNMs in North Carolina feel that NOW was the right time to file their bill at the General Assembly when NCFOM has been working so hard to educate the legislators and get the votes they need? Why? And why did they add language that would make it worse for their sister midwives if they get arrested? I feel partly responsible for all of this because I suggested that the leadership from all of the organizations sit down and come up with a plan to work together and never followed through. Could a meeting have prevented this terrible turn of events? I’m not very good at confrontations. The thought of getting all of those adults in one room and having to ask them to act like grown ups was unsettling at best, and downright depressing at worst.
But I think what is most disturbing to me is the trend with nurse midwives to side with physicians to rally against non-nurse midwives. Why would you try to be more pleasing to the very people who are constantly putting you out of practice and creating restrictive policies to limit your ability to care for women? Why do you continue to increase your educational requirements? To be more pleasing to the physicians? Does more education really make you a better care provider? I would argue that it most certainly does not – 90% of our population are served by obstetricians and their statistics are horrifying. The fact that NCACNM did not turn around and leave any legislator’s office that would require them to increase the penalty for unlicensed non-nurse midwives is downright disturbing. It makes you the worst kind of practitioner – one who thinks of yourselves first. How will that translate to the kind of care you provide your families?
“Where’s My Midwife?” seeks to increase access to ALL midwives in ALL settings. We ask that the Certified Nurse Midwives in our state revise their bill to eliminate the language that is so divisive and dangerous to their sister midwives. We need to be working with each other, not against each other. If you agree, let them know (from the NCACNM website):