What do you say about a 160 year old hospital that died? That it treated survivors from both the Titanic and 9/11? That it practiced according to Catholic ethics (i.e. no abortions, emergency contraception, or procedures that would create unused human embryos)? That it was midwife-friendly and its obstetrical director prided himself on “minimally-invasive obstetrics?”
The full impact of the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan on birthing women hadn’t really occurred to me until I read Miriam’s post about it on Radical Doula. New York City has a vibrant home birth midwifery community, put into the spotlight by The Business of Being Born. That community is now under threat because the hospital that served as the backup for the home birth midwives has gone belly-up.
According to Choices in Childbirth, the moment of truth is here. At midnight tonight, the majority of the NYC homebirth midwives will no longer be able to practice legally. From a CIC email bulletin forwarded to me by an NYC birth activist:
Unless immediate action is taken by the Governor and the NYS Department of Health the women that these midwives serve will be denied access to a home birth with their chosen provider and these providers will no longer be able to practice legally in NYS.
This means that everyone—from the women who have just discovered that they are pregnant to the ones due yesterday—are going to be forced to either switch providers or have a “back alley birth.” Provided, of course, that the midwives are willing to stake their licenses to continue to provide services.
I’m not just mourning a hospital I never met. I’m pissed. I see this as a bellwether, just a highly visible part of a disaster that is happening in slow-motion. After all, St. Vincent’s had the advantages of a storied past and being in the same neck of the woods as the New York Times, automatically giving it a much wider audience than the hundreds of other hospitals that quietly close down or change their VBAC policies, leaving pregnant women high and dry. If the biggest city in the U.S. will throw its home birthing families to the wolves, what in the world are the rest of us to hope for?
To the midwives of New York City, for what it’s worth, we’re standing here across the internet, fists in the air, shouting “FREE OUR MIDWIVES!”
For anyone who is in NYC, here is the advice from Choices in Childbirth:
YOU MUST ACT NOW to save the home birth option for New York Women:
- Wendy Saunders, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the NY State Department of Health, appointed by Governor Paterson. 518-474-8390
- Larry Mokhiber, he Secretary of the Board of Midwifery (518-474-3817, extension 130)
With the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, half of the licensed, highly trained home birth midwives serving NYC have lost their Written Practice Agreement (WPA). St Vincent’s was the only Hospital in the city supportive of a woman’s right to choose a home birth and willing to sign a WPA. In the weeks since it’s announced closure, these midwives have reached out to hospitals and obstetricians all across the city looking for support, with no success. Please help us to save the homebirth option in New York.
People can also email the Governor using this contact form. You can also sign a petition supporting the Midwifery Modernization Act, which will remove WPA from the midwifery law effectively removing this barrier to accessing midwifery care. See NYSALM’s fact sheet about what the Midwifery Modernization Act Means for You.
This piece is cross-posted to RH Reality Check.