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Rep. Cynthia Davis has proposed a bill to legalize midwifery.

March 14, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Labor pains may no longer mean a grab for the overnight bag and a mad dash for the hospital.

A bill proposed by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, would allow anyone to assist in a birth, not just doctors at a hospital. The bill would affect midwives, who help with home births.

Davis said that currently it is considered a felony for someone who is not a professional to deliver a baby. This includes those considered to be midwives.

Davis, who does not support abortion rights, said that "nothing in Missouri law should encroach on a woman's right to choose."

The restrictions are supported by groups such as the Missouri State Medical Association and the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians because of safety concerns.

Davis said that Missouri was behind the times and that many women moving to the state were surprised to find laws against midwives on the books.

"Why should the state deny women the opportunity to choose what they feel is in their best interest?" Davis said.

Kolbi Doyle-Barker, area coordinator for Friends of Missouri Midwives, said she thought the bill was a terrific idea, but was worried about its ability to pass.

"I am afraid that somebody will throw in a licensing which many direct entry midwives will not be able to attain," Doyle-Barker said.

She said that expense might keep some women from obtaining a license or that only nurses could have legal midwife status.

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis City, said that she was in support of the bill, but was concerned with it as it was written.

She said that there needed to be a back-up plan, including transportation, in case something starts to go wrong.

But Davis said that "everybody has a back-up plan."

"There is no such thing as a hospital in Missouri that doesn't accept a woman in labor," she said.

Davis said that she didn't think the bill would change much in Missouri with regard to child birth choices.

Davis said a good thing about the bill is that it's been drawing support from both sides of the aisle.

"It's not a republican or democrat issue," she said. "It's a woman's issue."