I am not aware of every single detail in regards to this story. I am writing about what I know.
Yesterday I learned that the North Carolina Board of Medicine decided to limit women’s rights by telling Dr. Henry Dorn, obstetrician and homebirth supporter, that he could no longer provide back-up support to certified nurse-midwives who attend homebirths.
Certified nurse-midwives enjoy legal freedom in all 50 states. They are uniquely qualified to provide well-woman care, prenatal and postpartum care, and catch babies. Unlike certified professional midwives, few people debate the qualifications of certified nurse-midwives when it comes to birth. In fact, some people think that certified nurse-midwives are a little too akin to obstetricians when it comes to birth; they are often referred to as “medwives.”
Certified nurse midwives practice under supervision by a doctor; until yesterday, Dr. Henry Dorn supported many of them in North Carolina.
I do not know the incident that preceded this decree. I do not know exactly how many certified nurse-midwives Dr. Henry Dorn was able to support until yesterday, although I know the number is at least five, possibly more. Dr. Dorn’s reach is far and wide across North Carolina. Now these midwives are unable to legally attend homebirths. They are out of jobs. Women seeking legal homebirths have limited — if any — options.
I guess if they live near High Point North Carolina, they can have a homebirth with Dr. Dorn himself. If they live near High Point. If he has room in his practice. If, if, if…
And so women’s rights have been limited, yet again. For those who were planning a homebirth with a certified nurse-midwife under supervision by Dr. Dorn, their options are severely limited: hospital birth, or homebirth with a not-legally-recognized midwife, or unassisted (not attended by any type of healthcare provider) homebirth.
Presumably the North Carolina Board of Medicine wants to force women into hospitals that they deem safer. Yet this is a fallacy. I have had two homebirths and if I’d been told that I couldn’t have a homebirth, I would have had one anyway. Probably under less desirable, less safe circumstances. I would not have gone to the hospital to have a baby.
This is the apex of partisan politics: homebirth supporters versus non-homebirth (default: hospital) supporters. Both with lines drawn in the sand. Both refusing to back down. The non- homebirth supporters are bigger and stronger and can make the rules. The homebirth supporters can protest and refuse and fight.
Pregnant women are the ones who lose. Families are the ones who lose, when birth options are taken away and homebirth becomes less transparent. I’d argue this only makes homebirth less safe. I’d argue that hospitals are not going to be filled with those former planned-homebirthers, happily rushing to the maternity wards.
I’m shocked because until now, the debate has always been whether or not certified professional midwives were qualified “enough” to attend homebirths safely. The debate was not if certified nurse midwives could attend homebirths. Now there is almost no debate. Hospital birth — or else!
I cannot even imagine what the “or else” is, but I bet we’ll find out soon.