Midwives and supporters of HB-955 are currently conducting 24-hour vigil in hopes there will be a hearing for HB-955. You can read the proposed bill in it's entirety here . HB 955 would establish a pathway for traditionally-trained, non-certified birth attendants to legally practice in Hawaii.
I am not typically one for getting politically involved and in all honesty have never stepped foot at the capitol nor have I ever lobbied for a bill in any way shape or form. I'm not here to persuade you to lean for or against HB-955 or educate you about the nuances of this bill. Instead I would like to share how my views of midwifery have changed dramatically in the last 4 years.
If you had talked to me 4 years ago, I would have said that all midwives need to be trained through an accredited educational program and follow to steps laid out by their national regulatory body. This is standard of practice for nearly all health professions in the United States, including my profession, occupational therapy. Why should midwives be held to any less of a standard? Getting training from a reputable and recognized program, following the regulatory guidelines and then pursuing licensure is the way it is done. I most certainly would have leaned against the wording in HB955.
Now 4 years later, I see how deeply naive and discriminatory this view is for several reasons.
First, "midwives" (I'm using this term loosely here) have been attending births for literally thousands of years. Far longer than ANY modern medical practice that is now overseen by regulatory boards, including Obstetrics, the modern practice of supporting women that began in the late 19th century. Midwifery is based in tradition, culture and passed knowledge from generation to generation. Even today, children are born into families of birth workers and begin learning about and even attending births from a young age. By the time they would be of age to attend an accredited educational program (that costs thousands of dollars), they are already attending births where they are participating in meaningful and powerful ways, far beyond the skills they would learn at such an institution. Midwives DO NOT all require modern education to develop the skills necessary to practice safely and effectively.
Second, birthing women will continue to choose to birth at home as they always have. Each woman who chooses to do so does for her own reasons. The vast majority also do this with clear acknowledgement of the risks. By limiting the access they have to quality midwifery care, they either birth in a hospital against their wishes, birth alone or potentially birth with a birthing attendant that is less than qualified due to the lack of oversight. Allowing licensure in midwifery through varied channels protects birthing women. It protects their right to choose and their right to know that who attends their birth is qualified.
Finally, by not allowing traditionally trained midwives to receive the recognition they deserve, we are further marginalizing indigenous practices in a state where these practices have already been marginalized far too much. Western methods and procedures simply do not and can not apply to ALL segments of the population. These midwives are just as knowledgable and capable as there “western” trained counterparts. Give them the same rights!
I stand with ALL midwives in Hawaii and honor their choice of how to train and acquire the skills to practice midwifery. Let's honor their diversity and create paths for licensure that reflect the diversity of our state!
If you also stand with me and have not already, please add your name to a petition with well over 30,000 signatures from around the world in support of HB-955
Hilary Valentine, Owner of Windward Maternal Wellness
I was born and raised in Massachusetts but I have called Oahu my home for the past 14 years. I live with my family in Kailua, including my husband, Jason, my daughters, Victoria and Gwendolyn and my parents, Nanette and Geoff. This blog is intended to shine light on both my work as a women's health occupational therapist and postpartum doula, my personal views on lifestyle topics such as parenting and women's health as well as a resource for education on topics relevant to the clients I serve. I welcome any and all comments and feedback! Mahalo!