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Bill creating registry of midwives dies in Senate

JACKSON — A bill creating a registry for midwives who practice in Mississippi is dead this session.

Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said he would not bring up the House legislation for a vote today, the deadline for House and Senate committees to pass general bills that started in the opposite chamber.

The bill earlier passed the House. It would allow practicing midwives to be included in a registry after they’ve taken an exam given by the North American Registry of Midwives, an international certification agency. The midwives would have to be in the NARM registry by July 1, 2015. However, there would be no penalty for noncompliance.

Renata Hillman, a certified professional midwife who’s practiced for 26 years, has said midwives with her level of training have been pushing for legislation to ensure only qualified midwives are practicing. The group had wanted the state Board of Health to oversee midwifery, she said.

There are three types of midwives: certified professional midwives, certified nurse midwives and those known as traditional or “granny” midwives, who do not have credentials. Most certified nurse midwives work in hospitals.

Bryan said he wanted more time to study the issue and would hold hearings before the legislative session ends in early April. A similar proposal died last year.

Bryan said he had been contacted by numerous medical professionals who expressed concern about the proposal. The Mississippi Nurses Association has been one of the main opponents, citing some midwives’ lack of training and skill.

“If one decides to have a baby outside of the hospital setting and something goes wrong, it’s too late to change your mind,” Bryan said. “The state should be careful encouraging that activity.”

Melissa Padgett, 39, from Hernando who’s training to be a certified professional midwife, had traveled to the Capitol in Jackson a few times this session to distribute information about midwifery.

“I personally am not terribly discouraged. I think we will continue to work on it,” Padgett said Tuesday. “The point of this bill was to give consumers access to information about midwives who are skilled.”

Hillman said she’s glad Bryan will hold hearings later this session. She said the legislation came about after a group of midwives met over the summer in south Mississippi with midwives from other states to write a proposal to present this session.

“The bill we originally presented was a lot more lengthy with details than the bill they reduced it to,” Hillman said, referring to the House Public Health Committee. “I don’t think they realized that the Mississippi Medical Association and nurses association would actually want some of those things that we put in there.”

The Mississippi Department of Health discontinued general midwifery permits in the mid-1980s. There is currently no midwifery law, so anyone can call themselves midwives in the state.


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