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Iowa Midwife Law a Step Closer

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023   

The Iowa House has passed a measure to establish a licensing board for midwives. Iowa is one of 15 states currently without such a program, often leaving rural residents without access to critical medical care when it is time to deliver their babies.

House File 265 would create a board to certify midwives have completed 2,000 hours of training before they are licensed, and are held to the same medical standards as nurses who deliver babies in hospital settings.

Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, the bill's co-sponsor, said Iowa ranks 49th in the nation for its doctor-to-patient ratio for OBGYN care.

"So, we are somewhat considered a OBGYN 'desert,' and it leaves a lot of people without close access to a major hospital for childbirth," Kurth pointed out.

The measure would allow exemptions for midwives practicing in 'culturally traditional' populations, such as Native American and Mennonite communities. Like other states, Iowa faces a critical nursing shortage. It is especially acute in maternal health care, which supporters say the bill will help address. It heads next to the Senate.

Kurth noted the bill also requires the registered midwife to come equipped to any birth with what is called a "transfer plan," in case something goes wrong during the delivery. Right now, she added, there is too much left to chance, especially in rural communities where midwives are in high demand and often develop a clientele through word-of-mouth.

"Some people are practicing without this certification," Kurth stressed. "If someone is looking for a midwife, they may hear about this person or that person, and might not realize that they don't have extensive training. And so, that's where some of the alarming situations can come in."

Medical providers have opposed similar legislation in the past, saying it offers rural Iowans a false sense of security, and they have expressed concerns over midwives' abilities to handle complicated births.


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