Wyoming to Legalize Midwifery?

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Wyoming to Legalize Midwifery?

Amie Newman

Certified professional midwives in Wyoming may no longer be considered criminals if a new bill to establish a Board of Midwifery in the state passes. 


Updated 2/22/10, 6:09pm EST

Wyoming may soon become the 27th state in the United States to legalize the practice of midwifery.

A bill to allow Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) to attend and facilitate homebirths and to practice a particular scope of care as described in the bill has received "initial approval" in the Senate and has a strong supporter in the House.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are licensed in Wyoming and are allowed
to practice the full scope of midwifery care and work in hospitals,
private practices and birth centers. They are regulated by the Board of
Nursing in that state as is the case in most states. CNMs are authorized to practice in all 50 states. 

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In 24 states, trained CPMs can face criminal prosecution for practicing midwifery. However, since laws vary so drastically from state-to-state many parents have no idea that the high-quality prenatal and childbirth care that helped bring their newborn into the world in one state, would be considered criminal in another.

From a February 19, 2010 article, Midwifery bill gets intitial approval, in the Billings Gazette:

When Cheyenne attorney Andrew Emrich was working for
the federal government in Washington, D.C., his wife gave birth to
four children at home in northern Virginia with the help of a

“We came to appreciate that method of care. It was a good fit for
us,” he said Thursday.

When the Emrichs moved to Cheyenne in 2005, they began to look for
a midwife to help with the delivery of their fifth child.

They were surprised to learn midwifery is illegal in Wyoming.

The Emrichs are now part of a group of homebirth advocates pushing for a change to Wyoming law regarding the practice of certified professional midwifery.

The Senate bill, SF 48, proposes a Board of Midwifery to license and regulate CPMs.

A similar bill was introduced into the Wyoming Senate last year and passed, only to die in the House. Giving the bill a significant chance of success, the Wyoming Medical Society (WMC) now supports its passage. Though the WMC intially opposed the bill, particular compromises have allowed the organization to change its position. From the WMC legislative update that can be found on its web site:

WMS advocates have carefully walked a very fine line with regard to this measure, understanding well the great opposition the majority of our members feel about the practice of lay midwifery in our state. Throughout the debate WMS maintained that hospitals staffed by trained physicians remain the safest and most optimal place for women to deliver babies. However, WMS offered that if it was in fact the will of the legislature to license certified professional midwives and provide the alternative home birth option to Wyoming families we would do our best to structure the safest bill possible that addressed concerns surrounding patient safety, education, training and standards of care. WMS believes that the amended bill currently being considered by the Wyoming Senate is the best and safest measure we’ve yet seen to address this issue.

The support for this bill from the Wyoming Medical Society is particularly fascinating. Across the country, states are fighting individual battles to de-criminalize certified professional midwifery by establishing criteria for licensing and regulation. On a national scale, the Big Push for Midwives has undertaken a massive grassroots advocacy campaign to license and regulate CPMs. But many of these efforts have been blocked by major, mainstream medical associations that do not want midwifery established as a professional, regulated and licensed medical practice, giving it the credibility it deserves. The American Medical Association has stated its opposition to the practice of certified professional midwifery and to birthing at home; as well as supported legislation to promote hospital and birth center birth over home birth.

Interestingly, the midwifery bills to expand women’s access to reproductive health options, in the Wyoming House and Senate, are sponsored by Republicans: in the House by Rep. Elaine Harvey and in the Senate by Sen. Wayne Johnson.