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Home Birth to become Illegal?

By Jazz - 4 September 2009 65

[First filed: September 04, 2009 @ 12:14]

Its not often that we run issues of national interest here on RiotACT but because we love Riot’s and this one in particular affects womens choice and I think its worth wider discussion.

The Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009 and two related Bills (Currently midway through debate in the House of Representatives) if passed without amendment, will intersect with Commonwealth law regarding the National Registration and Accreditation of Health Professionals and effectively make private homebirth practice unlawful, once enacted after July 1 next year.

To save you the onerous task of wading through the Bills, in a nutshell, the Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009 and the two related Bills enable Medicare funding, access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and professional indemnity premium support for midwives.

By doing this Australia is totally out of step with nations such as the United Kingdom, Canada, The Netherlands and New Zealand. These nations support the rights of women to choose homebirth and fund a registered midwife through their national health scheme. In New Zealand and the U.K in particular, women have a legislative right to choose homebirth.

Recent studies have shown that planned home birth for low risk women in North America using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention than hospital births with the same rates
of mortality so it would suggest that home birth for low risk women not only safe, it is cheaper, since there is less intervention.

To protest the effective removal of homebirth as a birth option, the “Mother of all Rallies” is being held from 11.30am on Monday 7 September 2009 outside Parliament House in Canberra.

If youre on Facebook you can find some more details of the rally here. And further information on home birth choices is available on the save homebirth website here

UPDATE : Seems that the government has changed its mind and is now backing down on plans to push the legislation through.

What’s Your opinion?


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65 Responses to
Home Birth to become Illegal?
peterh 5:07 pm 04 Sep 09

can a midwife apply for medical indemnity insurance if they are in, say, a regional site where an ambulance or, indeed a hospital is too far for the mother to travel safely to? Does medical indemnity insurance only apply to doctors? what if the doctor is also a midwife?

grunge_hippy 5:06 pm 04 Sep 09

i dont know why you would want to have a baby at home. i am giving birth for the second time in 11 weeks and i want to be near any available care as soon as I (might) need it. why would you put yourself or your baby at risk because you want to be at home? there are too many things that can go wrong in a very short period of time. how do you know that you are ‘low risk’ until you are actually in labour? I know plenty of people who have had dream pregnancies and suddenly have very serious complications during labour and birth. not to mention the baby or mother may need sudden care after being born. midwives are great, I used the CMP for both my pregnancies, but I want the added security of having specialist care on hand if needed. if anything, they should be looking into expanding the midwifery program so more people can access that if they want a less intrusive form of childbirth.

Granny 4:34 pm 04 Sep 09

I will be there.

When I chose to have my homebirth it was because the hospitals had made it awful enough and disempowering enough one time too many. I couldn’t face giving birth in a hospital again, and I am eternally grateful that my midwife agreed to accept me as a patient.

What this legislation does has the effect that women will no longer be able to choose to birth at home in safety. This is appalling, and is no choice at all for most women.

It removes choice. It disempowers.

Why should Australian women have less rights and less choice than women in other nations?

byt2007 4:32 pm 04 Sep 09

The only way i can think of is if a midwife is not able to practice unless s/he has insurance and will not be able to obtain insurance, outside the govt scheme, for home births. Thus they are not ‘illegal’ in a technical sense, but in a practical sense the midwife will not be able to provide that service.

I think that’s the issue at stake, DTC — that there is no private indemnity available for midwives to take up. Also, that homebirths would not be subsidised by Medicare either, so even if private insurance could be obtained, homebirth would be very expensive.

Just to note that private obstetrics indemnity insurance runs between $80 000 and $120 000 per annum for obstetricians working in hospitals with full paediatrician/neonatal intensive care back up. This is primarily because of the profound and long term consequences of even short periods of oxygen deprivation (asphyxia) during the delivery — the enormous pay-outs tend to be where lifetime care will be required.

deezagood 4:28 pm 04 Sep 09

Well this makes perfect sense; legislating to make an already overwrought health and hospital system even more overwrought. The home birthers enjoyed one-on-one care with qualified midwives in the comfort of their own homes. Now the majority of home birthers, without safe supervision, will be forced to go to hospital; placing more strain on the limited services. Those that do choose to give birth at home now face far greater risks, without a qualified midwife on hand to monitor the birth and manage the situation if things go wrong. Very sensible legislation indeed.

AG Canberra 4:05 pm 04 Sep 09

Do home births end up costing the tax payer more money or less? Say 10% (of home births) need medical intervention – do these costs outweigh the costs saved by not having all home births in a hospital? If they don’t, surely it is the taxpayers interest to encourage MORE homebirths….

Hospital policy is aimed at getting you out the door asap – so wouldn’t it be better to do more home birthing?

steveu 3:57 pm 04 Sep 09

Here we have the AMA at work again. Proof positive that they are one of the most powerful lobby groups in the country.

jackal 3:49 pm 04 Sep 09

In the ACT midwives are currently not insured to attend home births, although they were up until some years ago. However, this does not mean you can’t have a home birth, whether by choice or circumstances. Some ambos around town will tell you stories about delivering babies around Canberra at people’s homes because the baby couldn’t wait till mum got to hospital. In summary, as I understand it, the proposed legislation wouldn’t make home births illegal, it just wouldn’t allow for a midwife to attend, which is already the position in the ACT.

dtc 3:27 pm 04 Sep 09

Doesnt the legislation extend professional indemnity insurance subsidies to midwives, except that it doesnt subsidise the premium in respect of home births? As I understand it at the moment, midwives have no insurance cover.

Which seems to me to be:

– better than the current position because the midwife receives a subsidy not previously received /has insurance cover for some of his/her activities that could not previously be obtained; and

– in no way makes homebirths illegals.

Now you can argue whether, as a policy decision, homebirths should be singled out. But I dont see how it makes them illegal.

Then again, I scanned the legislation but saw nothing about home births, so presumably that detail is somewhere else. The only way i can think of is if a midwife is not able to practice unless s/he has insurance and will not be able to obtain insurance, outside the govt scheme, for home births. Thus they are not ‘illegal’ in a technical sense, but in a practical sense the midwife will not be able to provide that service.

(and let the debate rage over ‘home birth safety’. . .)

black_rattism 3:11 pm 04 Sep 09

PBO said :

I would like to see how this would be enforced. If a lady goes into sudden labor at home and gives birth, is she then in breach of the law? Making something that has occured for thousands of years illegal will have some interesting results.

No, that wouldn’t be against the law. What would be against the law would be for a registered midwife to attend this birth.

Bravo Wang 3:02 pm 04 Sep 09

Pregnancy is overrated! I would like to see children created in big fish tanks from genetic information taken from random members of the public (without their consent or knowledge).

RandomGit 2:56 pm 04 Sep 09

It’s not that homebirth will be illegal, it’s that midwives cannot attend because they will not be covered for indemnity by medicare. Who’d want to walk into that sort of a situation.

So it’s more a case of, homebirth = you are on your own.

sepi 2:02 pm 04 Sep 09

It is only illegal for a midwife to attend. Most homebirths up to now have had a midwife.

Homebirth by yourself is called ‘freebirth’.

I predict ambulance births will be a lot more common, as people plan to homebirth alone at home, then freak out and call an ambulance.

szeretetta 1:59 pm 04 Sep 09

PBO said :

If a lady goes into sudden labor at home and gives birth, is she then in breach of the law?

No, that won’t be in breach of the law.

But if she plans to have the birth at home and wants to give birth with the help of a midwife, then that would be illegal. Midwives will only be eligable for insurance if they are working in a hospital or similar facility. The midwives who attend homebirths are mostly Independent Midwives and thus not attached to a hospital, therefore not able to access insurance.

PBO 12:20 pm 04 Sep 09

I would like to see how this would be enforced. If a lady goes into sudden labor at home and gives birth, is she then in breach of the law? Making something that has occured for thousands of years illegal will have some interesting results.

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