Without path to accreditation in Hawaii, unlicensed midwives say they’re unfairly targeted

Traditional birth workers and their advocates say they'll keep fighting to keep their services legal after July 1.
Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 11:05 AM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -Traditional birth workers and their advocates say they’ll keep fighting to keep their services legal after July 1.

A measure to allow unlicensed midwives to continue offering their services in Hawaii permanently died in the Legislature last week. House Finance Committee Rep. Kyle Yamashita chose not to schedule a public hearing despite strong support and demonstrations.

That means on July 1st, midwives in Hawaii must be accredited by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council. No schools in Hawaii offer it.

Rebekah Botello comes from a family of apprentice-trained birth workers and has been practicing for 23 years.

“Everyone who wants to enter a vocation here in Hawaii should have equal and reasonable access. And given that there are no Western accreditation schools here, and women who wanted to study midwifery, in a way that the state is, you know, they’re saying you can only do it one way, it’s going to be one size fits all, that they would have to leave Hawaii, they would have to leave their families, they would have to pay 1000s of dollars to redo training. I mean, my mom has been doing this for 48 years, she’s not going to leave her family to go to a western school in mainland U.S. or anywhere else to do what she already knows how to do. I think that’s egregiously wrong and rude to suggest,” Botello said.

Botello believes lawmakers are taking away women’s choices for how they give birth and hurting rural areas and neighbor islands where medical care is limited.

Opponents of the bill raise concerns about safety and accountability, but Botello says those are unfounded.

Supporters are appealing to Governor Josh Green and legislative leaders to call for a floor vote to discuss the bill.