The NYC Home Birth Crisis -- Home Birth Veterans React & How You Can Help

Tracy Odell
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Brooklyn Home Birth
My Brooklyn Home Birth
One year ago I was preparing to give birth in my Brooklyn apartment. I had done a trial run with the birthing pool, my midwife was on speed dial, and we were waiting and wondering when the baby would come. I'd decided to have a home birth instead of another hospital birth and couldn't wait to meet my baby boy in the comfort and safety of my own home.

Now I wonder when (and if) women in New York City will be able to experience this same excitement.

Since Saint Vincent's Hospital closed in April, New York City's home birth community has had to deal with a new reality where attended home births are no longer legal. St Vincent's was the lone hospital in the city that would enter into a written physician agreement with home birth midwives, and so far no other hospital has stepped up to the plate. The Midwifery Modernization Act, legislation that would simply remove the requirement for all midwives to have a written practice agreement with a physician as a prerequisite to practice, is sitting with New York State's legislators, awaiting a vote. Until this legislation passes, New York City's home birth midwives either have to stop delivering babies or deliver them illegally.

This is a highly emotionally charged situation for the New York City home birth community, myself included. Even if you have no desire to have a home birth, you hopefully support the right for women to choose how they want to give birth. In a city where you can get anything you want delivered to your home, you can no longer deliver a baby. It's a big step backwards for a normally progressive city.

I asked some NYC home birth veterans to share with me the one word that best captures their emotional response to the home birth crisis.

Doula Trish Fox shares:

Frustration. I'm frustrated because home birth midwives are currently forced to practice illegally in New York City. Women feel they can't choose home birth as an option. Birth is being treated as a pathology in this country. In many countries home birth and birth with midwives is the norm -- women only go to the hospital if there is a risk or problem.

Home-birthing mom and health journalist Holly shares:

Tragic. I think it's a tragedy that women are losing their right to have the birthing experience they deserve. While home birth is not for everyone, those who would like to go this un-medicalized and safe route should be afforded the option to do just that. It's shocking to me that a progressive state like New York would be so narrow-minded and ill-informed about the pros of home birth.

Home birth midwife Kristen Leonard shares:

Frustration. I'm frustrated at the loss of the support hospital for home birth. I'm frustrated at the loss of options for women. I'm frustrated at the lack of understanding of so many people, in all walks of life -- doctors, administrators, lawyers, journalists, families -- who don't understand the service that home birth midwives provide. I'm frustrated that people do not understand that this is about a woman's right to choose -- even if it's not the choice that they would make.

There are three weeks left in the legislative session in New York. If you live in New York, you can help the Midwivery Modernization Act pass. Your support is key to getting a vote on this act before the legislators leave for the summer. Call, visit, or email your state assemblyperson and senator. Urge them to support, co-sponsor, and vote for the MMA-Senate bill S5007/Assembly bill A8117. If you're not in New York, tell your friends and family who are and urge them to help. Every woman deserves the right to choose. 


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