Columbia Community Birth Center to close at end of year

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Ivy White, a certified professional midwife in Columbia, holds 6 week-old William Leigh at the Columbia Community Birth Center before an appointment Sept. 18. A law passed last summer made it legal for midwives like White to assist in the birthing process without the presence of a physician.

COLUMBIA — After operating for almost three years and delivering 175 babies, the Columbia Community Birth Center plans to close at the end of year.

The center was searching for a new physician to take the position of medical director  after Elizabeth Allemann announced she would be leaving at the end of October, but the search was unsuccessful.

The Columbia Community Birth Center, a not-for-profit organization, opened in January 2007 and offered a number of female health services, including natural birth under the supervision of midwives.

According to certified professional midwife and the center's executive director, Ivy White, the closing isn't just about the vacant physician's spot, but also the change in the political scene for certified midwives. 

"We're moving on. I think the political climate is becoming more friendly towards midwives, and the medical community has started accepting certified professional midwives," White said.

Allemann is leaving her position at the center to focus on herself and her family. She will remain a family physician and acupuncturist at her private practice in Columbia.

Allemann ran for the 19th District Missouri senate seat during the 2008 primary but dropped out quickly. She is an advocate for midwifery laws in Missouri. 

"I am an advocate for women making their own options for their health care," Alleman said. "The more options we have, the better people's health is."

A 2007 law upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court legalized midwifery. Before the law, midwifery was illegal if done without a licensed physician.

Allemann says she is curious to see how the center closing will affect the strong home birthing presence in central Missouri.

"Out-of-hospital births are becoming less controversial and more acceptable, so I'm hoping the next incarnation of a birthing center will result in more support from the medical community," Allemann said.

Anastasia Pottinger, a Columbia photographer, received prenatal care from the birthing center but had her child at the hospital.

"I tried to make a bridge between the two, but the birthing center was a relaxing place," Pottinger said. "There was a fireplace, rocking chairs, art on the wall. It was different than walking into a hospital."

Pottinger was a regular at the birthing center and said 75 percent of her birth photography is from home births or the birthing center, and she showcased some of her photos at the center.

"Last week I took the pictures off the walls. I was happy, but sad," Pottinger said. "It was an end of an era."

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