2015 Bills

HB202: Cracking Down on Unlicensed Midwives

This bill failed in committee.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

A woman clearly has the right to birth her own child. She does not need to, but may (and usually does) request the assistance of one or more people to ensure the process goes well—doctors, midwives, a husband, or friend. Midwives, of course, are quite popular, and in Utah they need not be licensed in order to offer their services to interested expecting mothers.

A midwife may elect not to become licensed in Utah for a variety of reasons: because it is restrictive, because she prefers not to be regulated by the government, because she doesn’t use drugs or practice in a manner that would require licensure, or because she views birth as a normal physiological process—and not a medical event. Whatever the reason, there are many unlicensed midwives in Utah, catering to an exploding market of women choosing to birth their babies at home.

New legislation sponsored by Representative Carol Spackman Moss aims to crack down on these unlicensed midwives. HB202 is sound in overall principle, but utterly fails in execution.

This bill would mandate unlicensed midwives to require their prospective clients to sign an informed consent form that states that:

  • the midwife is not licensed by the government;
  • the midwife’s education and qualifications have not been reviewed by the state;
  • the midwife is not authorized to carry or administer prescription medications; and
  • the risk of harm or death to a mother or newborn may be greater because the midwife is not licensed by the government.

Further, the form would have to describe the various types of midwife licenses issued by the state and the minimum qualifications for each, a plan for transporting the client to the hospital if a problem occurs, among other information.

We strongly support informed consumerism; a person hiring a midwife, landscaper, piano teacher, cook, or anybody else should due their due diligence to ensure that the individual is safe, competent, knowledgeable, and has a good track record.

But government licensure does not guarantee safety, competency, knowledge, or good service. Passing a test approved by bureaucrats is not an indicator of quality of work; plenty of government-licensed practitioners have harmed—even killed—people. What’s tragic is that the government’s role in licensure has led people to believe that their blessing is sufficient to become an informed consumer. They therefore fail to do their own due diligence, and depend upon the scrutiny (or, actually, lack thereof) of government employees.

Mandating this form would reinforce this flawed mentality, and therefore should be opposed; the government should not be allowed to coerce free people into suggesting that they are not competent, whereas those licensed by the government are. Further, this form would perpetuate the speculative and misleading suggestion that “the risk of harm or death to a mother or newborn may be greater because the midwife is not licensed by the government,” which is inappropriate. For these reasons, and despite encouraging everybody to become informed consumers, we oppose this legislation.