Home Births Illegal in NYC?

Michele Zipp
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home birth baby
Photo by LisaPisa
With the closing of St. Vincent's Hospital, seven of NYC's 13 midwives can no longer do home births.

Imagine if you were one of the women set to have a home birth in the coming months or weeks or even days, and now you find out that this can no longer happen ... unless, of course, the midwife decides to deliver your baby without the backing of the hospital. This would put her license in jeopardy if found out.

This is exactly what's happening to a Brooklyn woman who's in her final month of pregnancy. 

The New York Times reported on the predicament midwife Kristen Leonard is in if another hospital doesn't agree to back her up in emergencies -- a law for midwife-assisted home births in New York state.

Other hospitals aren't stepping up to enable these midwives to practice legally. Dr. Barak Rosenn, director of obstetrics at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, is a supporter of midwifery in the hospital, but said he couldn't support a midwife delivery at home.

Piper Harrell, the Brooklyn woman whose due date is approaching, is worried about having to start a relationship with a doctor this late in her pregnancy if something doesn't change with her midwife Kristen's license. And Kristen doesn't want to abandon her patient.

Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President, finds this illegal home birth situation "backwards" and "embarrassing."

I agree with him. Midwives are highly trained, why do they need a signature from a doctor they may never work with to practice? And if there was an emergency during a home birth, any hospital would accept the mother and child.

Why haven't other hospitals stepped up? Is there a "let someone else do it" mentality going on?

There's a bill waiting to be voted on that would allow midwives to practice without agreements signed by doctors. Fifteen states already allow midwives to practice without this. But it's a waiting game, and the babies ready to be born cannot wait.

What do you think of the New York state law that says midwives can only practice with a signed agreement from a hospital? Do you know what your state's rules are?


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