JEFFERSON CITY — A judge temporarily barred a new law Tuesday that would let some lay midwives deliver babies in Missouri without the threat of criminal charges and prison sentences.
Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce issued a temporary restraining order against the midwives law, scheduled to take effect Aug. 28, and set a hearing to consider a preliminary injunction on Aug. 2.
A senator secretly attached the midwives provision to a bill intended to make health insurance more affordable and accessible to some Missourians.
Several physician groups sued last Thursday, claiming the midwife language violates the Missouri Constitution by going beyond the bill’s health insurance title and by changing the bill’s original purpose.
In court Tuesday, an attorney for the doctors’ groups argued that women and infants could be placed at risk by allowing the practice of midwifery by people who aren’t licensed by the state and may have no collegiate education in medical care. Attorney Harvey Tettlebaum also argued that doctors who cooperate with lay midwives could risk professional discipline by their state oversight board.
Midwives typically provide prenatal care and help deliver babies in mothers’ homes. Under existing Missouri law, midwifery is illegal unless done by physicians or certain specially trained nurses working under a physician’s supervision. A violation is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The recently passed legislation says anyone who holds a current certificate for minister of religion or tocology from the National Organization for Competency Assurance can provide services related to pregnancy.