An Update: Homebirth in NYC (Temporarily) Illegal After Today

Poppy and I went to the last minute press conference today at HHC and Tony also managed to duck out of work to join us, which was important as access to homebirth is not just a women’s issue — it’s a family issue.

Waiting for the press conference to begin. We were invited to stand behind the podium.

The press conference went well. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried spoke to the press, as did a representative from NYSALM, Elan McAllister of Choices in Childbirth, and expecting mom, Katalin Lovasz. They described the meeting that had just taken place with HHC, and while nothing was immediately resolved and homebirth will largely become illegal in NYC as of midnight tonight (!!!), HHC is not totally closed to the idea of signing written practice agreements with NYC’s homebirth midwives and the conversation remains open, for now. The concern, however, is how long the negotiation process will take. After all, HHC is a huge city bureaucracy not known for its speed or efficiency. That and the fact that they haven’t agreed to anything yet — they’ve simply agreed to continue their consideration.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer speaks at the press conference (P and I are behind him to the right of the photo -- Joan is next to us)

The crowd was small, yet still impressive considering many of us had about an hour’s notice to get there. There was a decent media turnout considering homebirth is of interest to a very small population of people — WNYC, NY1, the Daily News, and others had reporters there, and a couple of stories are already emerging (see this post for the full media coverage so far).

We walked away from today’s event, cautiously optimistic that this will be resolved in time, but still utterly depressed that as of tonight at midnight, a woman’s legal right to birth at home with a qualified midwife in NYC has been pulled out from under her. As one of the speakers today pointed out, many women are being left stranded in the final weeks of their pregnancies and forced to scramble to either find an OB willing to take them on at this stage of the game, or show up at an ER in labor and birth with total strangers. And all the work and planning and thought that goes into a homebirth, not to mention the loving relationship built over several months with a midwife, goes right out the window. And that’s just wrong.

After the conference with our midwife, Joan, and friend, Farah, from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

We could still use your help calling local representatives and putting pressure on the Governor to step in and right this wrong. If you want to help, call:

  • 311 (if outside NYC, call (212) NEW-YORK)
  • Wendy Saunders, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the NY State Department of Health, appointed by Governor Paterson. 518-474-8390
  • Larry Mokhiber, he Secretary of the Board of Midwifery (518-474-3817, extension 130)

[People can also email the Governor at http://www.state.ny.us/governor/contact/GovernorContactForm.php.]

Choices in Childbirth reports tonight that, “the Department of Health stated that they had never received as many calls on any issue, ever!!!”

Keep up the good work, folks!

In the news:

Update: Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has posted a statement on his website.

Statement of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer Re: Impact of St. Vincent’s Closure on Homebirth Midwives & Expectant Mothers
The collateral damage caused by the closure of St. Vincent’s has unfortunately now extended to midwives and pregnant women.  In spite of our best efforts, the fact remains that at midnight tonight New York City women will lose the option of delivering their babies at home.

This doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. I brought together midwives with officials from the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HCC) today to discuss ways in which midwives could be able to continue to practice with hospital resources behind them. While we were unable to reach an agreement, I applaud HHC for undergoing deliberations, and I call on all hospitals and health care facilities around the city to do the same.

Let’s not send the practice of homebirth underground. The closure of St. Vincent’s has led to some unavoidable hardships but there is no reason to add to that list the elimination of a woman’s right to choose how to deliver her baby.

Update 2: the NY Daily News posted a story this morning. Read it here.

Update 3: Keep up with my posts on the ongoing homebirth crisis in NYC here. I post whenever I have something new to share on the situation. Also, Choices in Childbirth issued a second Action Alert today (May 5). Check it out here.

7 responses to “An Update: Homebirth in NYC (Temporarily) Illegal After Today

  1. I’m not in NYC but I am right outside of it and will def do my part!

  2. Thank you so much for the update. All of this is so upsetting, but it is good to see that people are working towards a resolution on the WPAs and the media is picking up on the story.

  3. Pingback: Sad Day for Home Birth in NYC « Birth and Bloom

  4. Thanks for the update – here’s hoping this can be speedily solved. I’m spreading the word to drum up support!

  5. Pingback: NYC Home birth at risk- update and thank you « Choicesinchildbirth's Blog

  6. Pingback: NY Homebirth Crisis « Massachusetts Friends of Midwives Blog

  7. If that’s you holding the reporter’s notepad please drop me a line sometime so we can discuss this matter further.

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