Friday, September 24, 2010

My Pregnancy, My Home, My Choice?: Regulating Home Births in Illinois

In the state of Illinois around 1,000 babies are born at home every year, as opposed to hospital delivery. Most women who choose home births usually do so for religious reasons, financial reasons or pure personal preference. Regardless of the reason, under Illinois law the only legal home births are those attended by a physician or a nurse midwife, an advanced-practice nurse with a secondary degree in midwifery. However, according to the Illinois Department of Vital Health Statistics, licensed home-birth practitioners work in only 7 out of 102 Illinois counties mostly in Cook and Lake counties, which means most of Illinois home births are done illegally or unattended since many home-birthed babies are born in rural locations.

Due in part to such low numbers of licensed home-birth professionals, State Representative Robyn Gabel, Democrat of Evanston, has been pushing for change via the Home Birth Safety Act. Supporters of the bill say it toughens homebirth standards and protects pregnant women, but those opposed to the bill argue that home births are inherently more dangerous than births in medically supervised settings.

The “to regulate homebirths or not?"/"to allow homebirths or not?" debate has been a 30-year struggle with the state legislature, including a push to license direct-entry midwives. The State Senate passed the Home Birth Safety Act in May and a House vote is pending. Perhaps all parties involved should peruse the children's book We’re Having A Homebirth to gain a better understanding of what rights and responsibilities are at stake.

Read the NY Times’ story about Illinois Home Births here.

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