Midwifery Policy by State
Conditions in the South have presented particular obstacles to birthing for Black women. Black mothers in the South have been targeted both for criminalization and blame for social conditions. South Carolina has notoriously led the nation in prosecuting pregnant women and new mothers with drug addictions for using drugs while pregnant. Black women have disproportionately been targets for arrest and prosecution in these cases, and have been subjected to particularly harsh and punitive responses.
In Georgia, Black women have been targeted as eugenicists in a statewide campaign by the anti-choice movement to persecute Black women for choosing to have abortions based on race/sex selection. This is out of context and connects the controlling of black women’s bodies to the right to birth, abort and parent. In Louisiana, health care practitioners, blaming the state of emergency post-Katrina on overpopulation, flooded into storm-ravaged communities offering free sterilizations to Black women.
In addition to the effects of blaming and criminalization, the increasing medicalization of childbirth has affected access to and choices in care. The occurrence of caesarean sections amongst Black and Latina women is at an all-time high. Poor and working class women and women of color are more likely to be subjected court ordered surgeries, or to be threatened with state intervention. Despite maternal mortality rates that have reached a disturbing high, with massive racial disparity, midwives who offer a different model of care are subjected to persecution and prosecution.
In Alabama, only Certified Nurse Midwives are legally authorized to practice in the state, though few attend hospital births, and none attend out-of-hospital births. Home births are legal in the state, but it is illegal for a midwife to attend them, thereby leaving women few choices. Mississippi midwifery advocates are working to defeat a measure in the state legislature that would reduce women’s birth options by restricting who is able to perform home births.