The Personal is Political

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    This year new provisions of State Statute went into effect regarding the practice of Licensed Midwives in the State of California.  The bill, known as AB1308, was sponsored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.  It was chaptered in October of 2013, signed by the governor, and became law on January 1.  It declared:

    Section 1  (b) Planned home births are safer when care is provided as part of a collaborative delivery model in which medical professionals may freely consult on patient care to maximize patient safety and positive outcomes. For a variety of reasons, this integration does not always occur, and creates a barrier to the best and safest care possible.

    Most models of maternity care worldwide include midwives as part of a collaborative team.  For normal, healthy pregnant women, birth is a physiological event, not a medical one.  Midwives are the guardians of normal, physiological birth.  As part of collaborative team, a midwife can call on other practitioners to access screening or diagnostic procedures.  Except on the Central Coast.


    We’re famous on the Central Coast.  Last week The California Association of Midwives, the professional organization for midwives throughout the state, intervened in TWO separate incidents with one local ultrasound provider who refused to accept referrals from out-of-hospital birth midwives.  This ultrasound provider is the only practitioner in all of San Luis Obispo County who performs Level 2 ultrasounds or the California Prenatal Screening ultrasound known as a Nuchal Translucency.


    As legislation would have it, Section 2 of  2507 (f) now reads:

    A midwife is authorized to directly obtain supplies and devices, obtain and administer drugs and diagnostic tests, order testing, and receive reports that are necessary to his or her practice of midwifery and consistent with his or her scope of practice.

    It is the law of the land.  You can choose an out-of-hospital practitioner for your birth and are guaranteed, by law, access to any necessary tests and screenings.  You can’t be denied.  Except here. On the Central Coast.


    In 1969, a woman named Carol Hanisch published a paper entitled The Personal Is Political.  It was at a time in our collective history when women were exploring equal rights, equal access, gender roles and social norms.  Her message is as pertinent today as it was then.  And even though our focus and society have changed, we’re still confronted daily with the reality that for women, the personal  — where, how, with whom to birth — is political, as evidenced by denials of care, denials of insurance reimbursement, less than collaborative professional relationships.  Until the consumer speaks out for what she wants and what is legally afforded her, the system will be slow to change.


    So what can you do?  Get involved.  Join California Families for Access to Midwives or CAM.  Look around Childbirth Connection and become educated in your choices and how to advocate for you and your family.  Consider volunteering for the MAMA Campaign for Citizens for Midwifery.  Locally, find a La Leche League meeting or a mom’s group that resonates with you.  Write your elected officials.  Write your insurance company.  Sign a petition.  Heck, START a petition.  Start making connections and start making your voice heard.  If you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?

    As Carol Hanisch stated more than four decades ago:

    So the reason I participate in these meetings is not to solve any personal problem. One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.

    It’s time for some collective solutions, mamas.