INDIANAPOLIS — A new law that legalizes midwifery in Indiana has been a long time coming for women like Mary Ann Griffin, a certified professional midwife and longtime advocate of home births.
Her first trip to the Indiana Statehouse to lobby legislators to repeal an old state law that made her work a felony crime came the same year she gave birth to twins.
“They’re seniors in high school now,” said Griffin. “That’s how long it’s taken us to get here.”
On Tuesday, Griffin was at the Statehouse again, this time to join Gov. Mike Pence in a ceremonial signing of House Enrolled Act 1135. It’s the new law that, when it goes into effect July 1, will make Indiana the 28th state in the nation to legalize and regulate midwives who attend at-home births.
“It’s a huge step forward for families in Indiana who choose home births and for the midwives who provide those services,” said Griffin, now president of the Indiana Midwives Association. “It increases accountability and transparency for our profession and increases access to the medical community when needed.”
Up until now, it’s been illegal for midwives to be involved in home births in Indiana unless they were certified nurse-midwives licensed by the state. But most of those certified nurse-midwives work exclusively with hospitals or obstetric practices and attend few home births.
House Enrolled Act 1135 creates a mechanism for the state to now recognize an additional group of midwives who routinely attend home births and who’ve been certified by a national midwifery organization recognized by other states.
Supporters of the new law say it recognizes the reality of home births in Indiana and sets new safety standards for a practice that’s been going on, outside the law, for years.
About 1,000 women give birth at home each year in Indiana, according to state health officials and others who testified on the bill. Some of the strongest support came from the Amish communities in Indiana, who for religious reasons, shun hospital births.