It is now illegal for women to give birth at home in New York City, following the closure of the only hospital that supported midwives in the practice.
"It's pretty shocking that in a city where you can get anything any hour of the day a person cannot give birth at home with a trained practitioner," said Elan McAllister, president of Choices in Childbirth.
New York state law requires that any midwife performing a home birth be approved to practice by a hospital and an obstetrician. Yet the only hospital in New York City that was willing to sign to do so, St. Vincent's in Manhattan, closed at the end of April. Since then, the city's 13 home-birth midwives have approached at least 75 hospitals looking for a new partner, to no avail.
Less than 1 percent of U.S. births take place in the home, in contrast to rates as high as 30 percent in European countries such as the Netherlands. And while midwives preside over most European births, calling doctors only in emergencies, 92 percent of U.S. babies are delivered by obstetricians. As a consequence, the medical establishment tends to view midwives as financial competition.
Yet the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, at 16.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared with 3.9 in Italy, 7.6 in the Netherlands and 8.2 in the United Kingdom. Critics of the U.S. system attribute this problem, in part, to an over-reliance in interventionist methods by doctors who may have never witnessed a natural birth.
... "There are 600 women who are going to give birth in the next year who want midwives with them at home, and to take away their rights and choices is so backwards it's embarrassing," Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer said.