Capital Clicks

Bill establishing midwife licensing advances through Iowa House

By: - March 21, 2023 6:37 pm

Midwives would have a regulatory board and licensure for the first time under a bill that passed the Iowa House. (Photo illustration via Canva)

Midwives would have a licensing process for the first time in Iowa under legislation approved with bipartisan support Tuesday by Iowa House.

Iowa is one of 15 states that does not have a licensing process for professional midwives. The bill, House File 265, would create a regulatory board to certify midwifes and ensure they’ve completed an educational course before practicing, with exemptions for those practicing in Native American, Mennonite and Amish communities or other religious communities with “traditional” midwifery practices.

The bill passed on a 91-3 vote. Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, said the bill ensures practicing midwives in Iowa are held to high training and professional standards. The bill will ensure pregnant patients receive high-quality care as Iowa struggles with a maternal health care provider shortage, she said.

“One of the things I learned was that Iowa is actually 49th in the country for the ratio of OB-GYN to the general population,” Kurth said. “Which actually makes Iowa an OB-GYN desert, and makes it difficult for women to get proper care in all of Iowa.”

In previous sessions, the measure failed to advance in the Senate. Multiple medical organizations, including the Iowa Medical Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Iowa Hospital Association, are registered against the legislation. Medical providers also opposed the legislation in previous sessions, saying that a licensure process could mislead Iowans on the safety of going to a midwife to assist with a birth instead of a doctor or nurse, who are better equipped to handle pregnancy complications.

But midwives have argued the licensing process will improve maternal health care in Iowa. A 2018 study found states that integrated midwives into their health care systems saw better newborn and maternal health outcomes than those without.

The bill’s floor manager, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he’s been working with constituents on this legislation for over a decade. It’s his fourth time running this legislation, Kaufmann said, and he’s hoping it’s the final time.

“We’re getting it done this year,” he said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.