Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has crossed party lines to join seven Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill that would designate $35 million for midwife education programs.
The Midwives for Maximizing Optimal Maternity Services Act — or the Midwives for MOMS Act — would establish two grant programs for midwifery education: $15 million through the Title VII Health Professions Training Programs and another $20 million through the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs.
“America’s maternity care is at a crisis level with high rates of maternal and infant mortality, preterm births, and a staggering lack of prenatal care for moms,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release.
“We must prioritize quality care for moms and babies in this country no matter where they live or their economic status. Midwives play a critical role in giving many moms access to high-quality maternity care. As parents and leaders in Congress, let’s rally around this legislative solution to increase the number of qualified midwives and improve health outcomes for moms and babies.”
The bill, H.R. 3849, was introduced Thursday by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and co-sponsored by six Democrats and Herrera Beutler.
By 2020, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists projects the country will be dealing with a shortage of up to 8,800 OB-GYNs.
The path to becoming a midwife is shorter than that of becoming an obstetrician or gynecologist. Becoming a nurse-midwife requires a master’s degree. Becoming an OB-GYN is a much longer process that requires successful completion of eight years of college and another four years of medical residency.
Because of their extensive training, OB-GYNs are better equipped to deal with complicated pregnancies. But among women with low-risk pregnancies, the World Health Organization reports that midwifery’s holistic approach helps to reduce maternal and infant mortality.
Midwives currently attend to less than 10 percent of births in the U.S., where the infant mortality rate is among the highest in the industrialized world. In countries like Sweden, where the infant mortality rate is less than half of that in the U.S., midwives assist more than half of expecting and new mothers.
In the press release Kate Bauer, executive director of midwifery advocacy group American Association of Birth Centers, touted “the significant impact the midwifery model of care has on improving maternal and infant health outcomes for our vulnerable populations.”
“Only with a growing and diverse midwifery workforce can we adequately address maternal health disparities and the mounting maternity provider shortage,” Bauer said.
In supporting the bill, Herrera Beutler — who gave birth to her third child on May 21 — continues a streak of co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation focused on maternity and child health care.
Earlier this year, her ACE Kids Act, which makes it easier for children with complicated medical issues to seek health care across state lines, was signed into law.
In May, she also introduced the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, which would attempt to better standardize newborn screening across states. Later that month, she was one of four people in Congress to sign onto the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would strengthen protections against discrimination for pregnant people in the workplace.