Pro-Choice Childbirthing

You want to talk about being pro-choice? How about allowing women actual choices in the kind of care they receive during childbirth? If the progressive reproductive health community wants to promote women's health and status, we must prioritize the "politics of childbirth" in our agenda.

Here's the story: Midwives in Missouri are outraged. But just a few weeks ago they were celebrating a victory for women and their families in their state. Governor Blunt had signed a bill legalizing the practice of Certified Professional Midwifery, ending 48 years of midwifery being categorized as a felony in Missouri. So what happened?

The Missouri State Medical Association has made it clear that they do not want midwifery legalized in their state and have taken action to overturn the new law. According to Jennifer Block, author of Pushed: The Painful Truth About Midwives and Modern Maternity Care:

"The physician group is fighting the legislation in court, and recently won a temporary restraining order. Its argument has been twofold: the measure makes birth less safe for women and babies, and its inclusion in the insurance bill was unconstitutional. I could go out on a limb and say that these medical professionals aren't bothering to sue over legislative formality, but I'll go even further and say that their concern isn't exactly women's safety either."

Read Pro-Choice, Pro-Midwife on Huffington Post.

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    The movement to legalize midwifery in all fifty states, while somewhat off the radar screen, is actually an impressive example of what grassroots organizing can achieve despite enormous disadvantages. With no money and no political clout, midwifery activists have repeatedly defeated armies of highly paid medical lobbyists and well-financed professional organizations to successfully pass legislation to license and regulate Certified Professional Midwives in 24 states.

    Part of the reason for this success is that they’ve built a strange-bedfellow coalition of activists from the far left and the far right, which one journalist aptly described as, “the Amish, nurses, doctors, old hippies, new hippies, the uninsured and underinsured, fundamentalist Christians, undocumented residents, the well-read and the middle of the road folks. You know, the gang.” (

    The National Advocates for Pregnant Women sums up the potential of such coalition-building nicely:

    “While politics and media like to divide the world into neat bundles of opposites—pro-abortion vs. pro-life, pro-choice vs. anti-choice—the reality of women’s lives often do not fit these simplistic and divisive labels. We can disagree on many things, but we believe it is time to recognize common threats and celebrate common threads that will ensure the humanity, dignity and well-being of pregnant and birthing women and their families.”

    People who are interested in becoming more involved in birth activism in their state–which ranges from working to legalize CPMs, to fighting against hospital bans on vaginal birth after cesarean and the closure of hospital-based nurse midwifery practices–can find out more information at Citizens for Midwifery ( and the International Cesarean Awareness Network (