Governor Signs Midwives Bill

by Bob Norberg, California Healthline Contributing Reporter

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A bill removing barriers for licensed midwifes to deliver children in normal births and improving communication between physicians and midwives if a hospital transfer is necessary was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).

“The bill goes a long way to removing barriers for people who want to have a home birth, it improves safety and gives peace of mind that if they desire that home birth, they can still have open and uncomplicated access to medical care,” said Assembly member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), author of AB 1308.

The law removes the requirement that a licensed midwife be under a physician's supervision, a provision since 1999 that some considered unworkable and not enforced by the Medical Board because of an administrative judge ruling.

The bill specifies that licensed midwives only attend cases of normal birth and pregnancy. It also requires the midwife to transmit pre-natal records upon hospital transfer and talk to the physician about the status of labor.

It also allows licensed midwives to purchase supplies and order tests within the scope of their practice, removing some questions raised by supplies and laboratories asking for a physician to be listed.

“This solves a problem that has been with us 20 years, where due to liability concerns, physicians have never fulfilled that role of supervision,” Bonilla said.

Two of Bonilla's four daughters were delivered by midwives in a hospital setting.

“The expertise and care the midwives give is exceptionally outstanding,” Bonilla said. “I had a great experience. That is one reason I thought this bill was so important.”

There are about 300 licensed midwives in California who attend delivery school for three years and oversee about 2,000 births annually, a small percentage of the state's 550,000 annual births, said Shannon Smith-Crowley of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX, which sponsored the legislation.

“We prefer women deliver at a hospital or birth center, but we recognize that some want to deliver outside and that is their choice,” Smith-Crowley said. “We need to recognize the reality and improve the situation.”

Smith-Crowley said clarifying the relationship between licensed midwives and hospitals removes any reluctance that a midwife might have in transferring a patient to a hospital, which has reportedly occurred in the past.

The bill was supported by a dozen medical and midwife associations.

The governor on Thursday also signed SB 669, which would allow volunteers, such as scout leaders and Little League coaches, to be trained and allowed to administer epinephrine shots to children or adults who suffer a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

The bill was authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar).

“This bill will save lives,” said Huff in a statement. “We have similar protections set up in schools but fatal allergies don’t go away when a student steps off the school grounds.”


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