Fearing the future of their work, traditional midwives rally at state Capitol

The issue stems from act 32 established in 2019. It created a three-year period to allow unlicensed midwives to develop common standards.
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:54 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 7:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Traditional midwives are demanding a floor vote on a bill that would extend their practices.

Last week, they held a two-day sit-in in a bid to ensure their voices were heard.

And on Monday, they held a “birth sovereignty” rally, vowing to sleep at the State Capitol for days.

Midwives and cultural practitioners are asking House lawmakers to hold a floor vote by Thursday — even though Bill 955 is technically dead after failing to get a hearing in the Finance \Committee.

The measure creates an exemption so traditional birth attendants, which some call unlicensed midwives, can extend their practices.

The issue stems from Act 32, established in 2019, to allow birth attendants to develop common standards and intends for lawmakers to establish a pathway for them to practice legally in Hawaii.

There’s debate over what what would happen without the bill.

Some fear it would end unlicensed home birth services and make it illegal, but others say that’s not true.

“Home birth can continue as long as women want to give birth at home,” said Rebekah Botello, rally organizer. “But what happens is this bill, unless it passes, eliminates the entire community of traditional home birth workers that can help these women.”

But Le’a Minton, board president of Midwives Alliance of Hawaii, opposes HB 955.

“A law doesn’t make individuals illegal. It just means that if a midwife is practicing without a license then that means that a midwife is practicing outside the requirements of the law,” she said.

“As a traditional birth attendant, as a cultural practitioner they are allowed to continue to practice.”

The issue has gotten the attention of former talk show host Ricki Lake.

“I just want to say that I support traditional midwifery both in Hawaii and around the world. I’m a home birth mama myself,” she said.

House leaders say the medical community was concerned about the bill and safety.