The question of whether a mid-Missouri health clinic is exempt from a state licensing requirement governing birthing centers will come before the Cole County Circuit Court in a bench trial set to begin Thursday morning.

In the case, which began in May 2017, the attorney general’s office is arguing that Susan Wilson, a midwife who delivers babies at a medical clinic near Versailles, is operating a birthing center without a license.

Wilson said the clinic, which was built by Mennonites in 2017, is crucial for the neighboring Mennonite and Amish communities, as many of them don’t want to give birth in a hospital. Roughly three-quarters of her clinic’s patients come from those communities.

Gaylin Carver, the attorney representing Wilson, said the state is adhering to regulations that don’t align with the state statute.

By statute, birthing centers are considered a type of “ambulatory surgical center.” Those are defined as any establishment operated primarily for the purpose of performing surgical procedures or childbirths — a definition that Wilson argues her clinic, A Mother’s Heart, does not meet because more than half of the health care the clinic provides is unrelated to births.

Wilson said a Department of Health and Senior Services administrator told her in 2016 that as long as delivering babies made up less than half of her clinic’s revenue, it did not qualify as a birthing center. Since the clinic offers other medical services that generate more than half of its revenue, Wilson said she was told a license was not required.

Then, in 2017, the attorney general’s office filed a preliminary injunction against the clinic with the circuit court, arguing it was out of compliance with birthing center regulations.

When regulations conflict with the statutes they’re based on, Carver said the statute prevails.

“I don’t really know what the state’s argument is, to be honest with you,” Carver said.

In February 2018, the Cole County Circuit Court denied a motion by the state that would have forced Wilson to stop delivering babies for the clinic, pending resolution of the legal dispute over licensing.

Missouri has roughly eight other clinics offering midwife services that are not registered birth centers, Carver said.

The trial was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Cole County Courthouse before Judge Jon Beetem.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

  • Summer 2019 reporter and assistant city editor. Reach me by email at tncoulter@mail.missouri.edu or on Twitter at @tomcoulter_

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