CiC in Albany for Lobby Day

Advocacy, Birth Center, Childbirth, Choices, Events, Policy

Choices in Childbirth joined the New York State Association of Licensed Midwives (NYSALM) in Albany on April 21st for their annual Lobby Day. This all-day event focused on securing the passage of the Midwifery Birth Center Bill (A446/S4325) which would bring more birth centers to New York. The Midwifery Birth Center Bill removes technical, bureaucratic obstacles that have stood in the way of opening and operating freestanding birth centers in New York State.

Lobby Day kicked off with NYSALM presenting an award to State Senator Kemp Hannon, the chair of the State Senate’s Health Committee and the bill’s Senate sponsor. We were also joined by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, who relayed his impressive history of supporting midwives in the state while generating enthusiasm and encouragement for the day ahead.

Then our work began in earnest… Throughout the day, small groups of midwives, student midwives, and consumer advocates met with numerous state senators and assembly members to discuss and answer questions about the bill. State officials expressed a strong interest in learning more about the issue, and the day’s participants generally encountered intelligent questions and positive feedback.

Midwifery birth centers are maternity care facilities that offer woman- and family-centered care delivered by licensed midwives. Studies have shown that midwifery-led birth centers are a safe option for women with low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies, and that they have a strong track record of achieving a high degree of patient satisfaction while significantly decreasing costs. In a joint consensus statement published in February of 2015, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recognized birth centers as an appropriate birth setting for women with low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies. In a separate statement, ACOG recognized that “…hospitals and birth centers are the safest setting for birth.”

In 1975, the first freestanding birth center in the country was opened in New York City. Although New York led the country in developing birth centers as a successful model for maternity care, there are currently only two freestanding birth centers in the entire state. In the last decade, several freestanding birth centers in NY have closed their doors, including the Elizabeth Seton Childbearing Center, the birth center at Bellevue Hospital, and the Morris Heights birth center that had been part of a community health center in the Bronx. The Midwifery Birth Center Bill would create a new category of health care facility — ‘midwifery birth centers’ — and would charge the Commissioner of Health with creating appropriate regulations.

With the unflagging support of Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, the Midwifery Birth Center Bill has already passed in the New York State General Assembly. One day after Lobby Day, on April 22, the bill was passed out of the Health Committee and is now on the Senate floor, awaiting a vote.