Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation to Improve Maternal Health Outcomes
CHICAGO - Building upon efforts to expand access to healthcare, Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill 3401, better serving pregnant mothers by allowing for the licensure and certification of midwives in Illinois. The bill sets standards for the qualifications and education of midwives, helping to reduce health disparities in communities across the state.
"With the legislation I sign today, the lifesaving and lifegiving work midwives perform will be legally recognized here in Illinois. It's a victory decades in the making and one that recognizes the full worth and value of midwives in reproductive care," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Most importantly, it ensures safe home births for every mother who chooses to deliver out-of-hospital - another step toward advancing health equity in communities across our state."
The legislation establishes standards for the qualifications, education, training and experience of people who seek to be licensed as certified professional midwives. The licensure and certification of midwives will be administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
"IDFPR is committed to ensuring professionals are licensed to provide services to the people of Illinois and that the standards of professional practice are properly followed and enforced," said Mario Treto, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. "We look forward to creating a process that both enables and welcomes midwives to practice in Illinois."
The bill creates the Licensed Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act, which licenses individuals who perform out-of-hospital births and have earned the credentials need to be a professional midwife. It also forms an Illinois Midwifery Board, which has the authority to recommend revisions to the Act.
In order to be licensed as a midwife, the legislation clarifies that midwives must hold and maintain valid Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) certification granted by North American Registry of Midwives (NARM). In addition to NARM certification, the bill requires completion of a postsecondary midwifery education program, which must be accredited by the Midwife Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC). A midwife accredited by NARM who has not completed a MEAC program can still obtain licensure if they have practiced as a CPM for more than three years and obtain other certifications.
"With the signing of this legislation, Illinois becomes the 37th state to recognize Certified Professional Midwives as skilled, trained, competent professionals able to serve the people of Illinois," said Barbara Belcore-Walkden, Acting President of the Illinois Council for Certified Professional Midwives. "We know that the way forward to integrating midwifery care in Illinois is found when Midwives, nurses, physicians, and hospitals can freely share information and work together to improve maternity outcomes across the state."
"Today is a proud day for midwives and an even prouder day for West Suburban Medical Center midwifery providers at PCC Wellness Center and West Suburban Midwife Associates," said Barbara Martin, West Suburban Medical Center Chief Executive Officer. "These highly skilled clinicians will finally join the ranks of other health care professionals who are fully licensed and recognized by the state."
Due to the pandemic, more soon-to-be mothers have turned to home births, in which midwives provide guidance before and during delivery, as well as vital postpartum care. Furthermore, data indicates that women of color in Illinois are more likely to experience complications from a pregnancy-related condition. By providing more comprehensive options for women during pregnancy, HB 3401 helps advance health equity across Illinois.
"This legislation has been decades in the works, and I am honored to be here to see it signed into law," said State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). "Not only will having a formal process for certifying midwives make home births safer for mothers and babies, but it will also give new and expecting parents more options at such a crucial time in their lives."
"Midwives are trained to do home births, but they haven't been able to get the certifications they need to do that in this state," said Representative Robyn Gabel, Assistant Majority Leader (D- Evanston). "This bipartisan bill will legitimize certified professional midwives, allowing them to form professional relationships with hospitals so they can transfer a baby if there's ever any need. Ultimately, this initiative offers expectant parents another safe birth option for their families. I want to thank the Governor and all of the advocates who made this possible today."
"I want to thank Gov. Pritzker for signing this important bill today. Although our work is far from done, this is a good first step that will reduce child and maternal mortality in Illinois," said State Representative Mary E. Flowers, Deputy Majority Leader, (D-Chicago). "This moment has been years in the making and I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to improve maternal health outcomes for low-income women."
"After many decades of effort, parents will once again have the ability to give birth at home with the assistance of a certified, professional midwife," said State Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin). "We are improving birth in our state by giving parents across Illinois the chance to have a safe and supported labor and delivery experience in a setting in which they are most comfortable. I applaud the many midwives who've worked for years to be able to practice their profession and I appreciate the hard work of the sponsors and advocates. It's been an honor to help advance this issue and legislation."
This legislation builds upon the administration's national leadership in advancing and protecting reproductive health, including establishing the right to choose as a fundamental right. Earlier this year, Illinois became the first state in the nation to offer eligible mothers 12 months of postpartum care coverage through Medicaid. The law expands the covered post-partum providers to include community health workers, doulas, and certified midwives.
HB 3401 is effective October 1, 2022.