Families Risk Law to Give Birth at Home - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Families Risk Law to Give Birth at Home

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College instructors don't normally worry about breaking the law. But Matt Whitman recently told lawmakers he was prepared to commit civil disobedience.

After Whitman and his wife Camilla gave birth to their first child at home in Nevada, they wanted the same experience after moving back to Nebraska. But they learned doing so can risk breaking the law, because midwives aren't allowed at home births.

"This is what we were being sneaky about," Whitman said pointing at photos of his daughters. "They're pretty cute. It's not some sinister conspiracy or some dirty dark thing. This is a beautiful thing."

To hear Whitman talk about finding a midwife for his daughter's birth is to hear a story that sounds like it's out of the movies. 

He said, "It was enormously hush hush group of people. We could tell people knew some things about midwives we could tell there was somebody who would do it, maybe multiple people but nobody was going to use any names. It was sneaky and secretive."

Recently Matt testified before lawmakers because Nebraska's one of only two states where having a midwife attend a home delivery is against the law. 

"Women should have the right to bring new life into the world in a setting they find comfortable and safe," he said.

State Sen. Mike Gloor, a retired hospital CEO said families shouldn't have to break the law to give birth. 

"We have better things to do than run around police that sort of thing," Gloor said.

Gloor said they'll seriously consider allowing midwives at home births. But they will likely heed doctors advice and limit where else they can practice. 

"When you've got a number of lay members like the legislature sitting here we usually defer
to the recommendations of professionals who sit on the board of health," he said.

The Whitmans say hospitals have their place, but argue those who choose home birth should be allowed to have help. 

Matt said, "For those who want to do it the way we did it ought to be allowed to do it. I think it's coming. It's going to happen."

Doctors argue a low risk pregnancy can quickly become high risk, and have concerns about home birth in rural areas where moms are far from hospitals.

Home birth supporters though point out Nebraska's one of only two states that doesn't allow
midwives at home. 

Reporter's Notes by Steve White:
Matt and Camilla Whitman said they were prepared to have a midwife at the birth of their second daughter in Grand Island; however the midwife was not able to be there.

The legislature's Health and Human Services Committee heard three bills about midwives last week.

LB406, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton, would add certified nurse midwife (CNM) to the list of practitioners who cannot be denied clinical privileges based solely on the type of credential held.

LB457, introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike Friend, would remove a requirement that a CNM have a written agreement with a supervising physician in order to practice.

LB481, introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, would remove the prohibition on a CNM attending a home delivery.

The Nebraska Medical Association expressed opposition, as did Nebraska chief medical officer Joann Schaefer.

Dr. Todd Pankratz of Hastings testified in opposition. He said, "Low-risk pregnancies can turn high-risk very quickly," Pankratz said. "You can't predict that."

Lawmakers took no immediate action.

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