Before legislation was passed in 2007, it was illegal to practice midwifery in Missouri. While a lower-court judge almost immediately passed an injunction on the law, in 2008, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of making midwifery legal (go here for a more complete history). In an age where the rate of elective cesarean delivery is increasing, and where modern medicine is constricting pregnant women’s delivery choices, the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision allowed for a wider range of viable options for maternal care and delivery. However, the original legislation gave Missouri has almost no regulatory authority over lay midwives, who are not required to be nurses and may not have a college degree.
This legislation has come under fire because of the death of an infant in Springfield while his mother was under the care of an unlicensed midwife. The midwife in question, Lynn Diamond, had no formal training or license and a work history that included an earlier brush with authorities. In 1997, she was barred from practicing as a midwife in Colorado after she left a woman who had given birth bleeding uncontrollably. According to court records, Diamond, who was not registered as a lay midwife in Colorado, called 911 and fled.
In reaction to this case, Missouri State Rep. Mike Talboy, the House minority leader, has said that he intends to introduce legislation that would outlaw lay midwifery or regulate lay midwives. Legislation will likely push for changes on two fronts: placing midwives under the auspices of a regulatory board and repealing the original language in the 2007 bill that gives midwives unregulated freedom to practice.