Midwife laws may force homebirths underground

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Link

A SENATE committee has acknowledged that proposed legislation for midwives may ''drive homebirths underground''.

The Government chairwoman of the Senate's Community Affairs Committee, Claire Moore, said the three Labor members recommended proceeding with legislation that would expand the role of midwives and extend government support for medical indemnity cover for midwives operating in hospitals.

Senator Moore said the legislation did not make homebirth unlawful, but separate legislation dealing with the accreditation of health workers ''may result in homebirths being outside the scope of practice of registered midwives due to the requirement for indemnity insurance as a condition of registration''.

The committee acknowledged the concerns that ''an unintended consequence of this may be to drive homebirths underground unless an exemption is granted or an insurance product found''.

Since the potential barrier to homebirths emerged, the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has indicated that she is prepared to consider ways of extending medical indemnity to homebirths, provided this could be achieved without making the insurance costs ''unaffordable''.

The Liberal members of the committee, Sue Boyce and Judith Adams, called for the Government to commission an actuarial analysis of the risks of professional homebirth and, if feasible, make it eligible for government support.

A Greens senator, Rachel Siewert, also called for the indemnity scheme to be extended to low-risk homebirths.

" ... the voices of more than 2000 women speaking out on fundamental women's rights has been ignored and given the sheer magnitude of the evidence put forward and the results the committee has come up with, it looks like we are getting to the end of the line when it comes to options.''

More than 10,000 women are expected to attend a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra next month to continue the fight.

If you're wanting to have a home birth, it's best to start trying for a baby now so that you birth before June 30, 2010. It's almost certain that this legislation will be passed. National Registration demands that all health professionals have professional indemnity insurance to practice. That does not make home birth illegal. The other 3 Bills around PI for midwives and midwife eligibility for MBS, PBS and insurance, state that insurance will not be extended to home birth. That also does not make home birth with a private midwife illegal. It is the intersection of the 2 laws that make private home birth illegal.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448