How Governor Hochul Can Help Improve Birthing Experiences and Maternal Safety

This op-ed is adapted from a public letter being sent to Governor Kathy Hochul by birth practitioners, advocates, educators, and leaders and reflects a petition already signed by more than 1,000 New Yorkers in support of the Midwifery Birth Center Bill.

Midwifery birth centers provide high-value, evidence-based, patient-centered care that has been proven to result in positive health outcomes, cost savings, and health equity—and could be essential to advancing birth equity in New York, a state that faces a maternal mortality and morbidity crisis.

So why are midwifery birth centers nearly impossible to open?

Byzantine and burdensome state regulations and obstacles from the Department of Health have meant that no midwifery birth centers have been able to be licensed in New York State, leaving families without the care options they deserve. 

The good news: There is a step within reach that could change this. The bad news: There’s only a few weeks left for Governor Kathy Hochul to act.

The New York State Senate and Assembly have unanimously passed the Midwifery Birth Center Bill (A.259a/S.1414a) to address exactly these challenges—but now the governor must call for the bill and sign it into law by December 31 or it’s back to square one.

As midwives who have worked in public and private health settings in New York, we’ve personally seen the value midwifery care can add to birthing families—and we’ve seen the frustrations that come from not having more birth center options. We’re fortunate to have leaders in the State Legislature who understand the health and economic benefits of this avenue—including Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried, the longest-serving member of the Legislature, and Senate Health Chair Gustavo Rivera. Now we need to make sure Governor Hochul sees and seizes this opportunity.

To get technical for a moment, the Midwifery Birth Center bill allows accreditation by an unbiased national entity, such as the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC), to satisfy the Certificate of Need requirements for opening a facility—which is one of the major obstacles to opening such centers in New York. Adopting the guidelines from a nationally recognized accrediting organization, as is done in many other states, will protect and serve childbearing families in New York. National birth center accreditation is evidence-based, efficient, transparent, affordable, and tailored to birth centers. Accreditation reviews all aspects of the birth center, including business financial operations, regulatory compliance, facility design, staff competency, collaboration for transfer, perinatal outcome data, and client experience. It is the gold standard of any state’s birth center licensure process. This bill will make sure this gold standard is applied in New York State as well.

Whitney Hall, LM, CM, is a Midwife and President of NYS Birth Center Association. Casey Selzer, LM, CNM, is a Midwife and former Co-Chair of NYC Midwives.

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