Senator Kevin Blackwell of Southaven has recently – and repeatedly – proposed legislation to require the licensure of midwifery in Mississippi. He and Senate Bill 2080’s proponents claim that the duty of delivering Mississippi’s newborns is too great to have the unlicensed perform.
I, along with many Mississippians who have hired midwives and even many of those who have not, fervently disagree.
To avoid confusion, let’s consider some numbers. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 2.1% of births in Mississippi were attended by midwives in 2018. That was a whopping 777 births of the 37,009 total births in 2018. Even if the number of mothers electing to give birth outside a hospital has risen in the interim, midwifery in Mississippi remains a niche practice. Assuming births outside hospitals are on the rise, we’d be remiss not to examine why.
Mississippi is notorious for infant mortality. In 2022, we held the top spot in the nation with an infant mortality rate of 9.46 deaths per 1,000 births. The next state closest to our abysmal and embarrassing situation was South Dakota, with a rate of 7.77 infant deaths per 1,000 births.
Furthermore, as of 2022, Mississippi also claims the highest rate of cesarean delivery at 38.5% of all live births, according to data from the CDC.
While these factors alone surely do not explain a supposed rise in traditional birth practices in Mississippi, I hope you can imagine why an expecting Mississippi mother might entertain options for birth outside of hospital walls.
Considering the dreadful state of the government in these regards and the meager popularity of midwifery in Mississippi, I have to wonder why Mr. Blackwell would feel it necessary to burden midwives and Mississippi parents-to-be with the heavy yoke of government regulation and restriction.
Could it be that the established birthing industry is advocating for such things to control — or even quash — an emerging threat to their status as the primary provider for childbirth, indefensible as it may be? I cannot say, but I can say that Mississippi parents know what is best for themselves and their coming children.
Those who care must not allow spokesmen and women or our elected servants to paint this as an issue of concern for the wellbeing of Mississippi’s mothers and children. Their attempts to do so imply that the great people of Mississippi are helpless and ignorant. If their concern were truly the wellbeing of Mississippian mothers and children, they would do well to refocus their regulatory efforts on the institutions that have given us the highest rates of infant mortality and cesarean delivery, not to mention the plethora of examples of how Mississippi’s “healthcare” system is failing the people of this state.
I will close with a taboo: There has to be some level of individual responsibility when selecting providers of any service. If our elected servants do not feel that Mississippians are capable of such due diligence, especially in regard to the birth of their children, I propose they are incompatible with the people of Mississippi and should resign from their offices posthaste.
Government regulation is not the answer to Mississippi’s problems, particularly when the “problem” its proponents claim to address, midwifery, is actually an alternative to some of the most tragic and unacceptable problems in our state’s healthcare system. Mississippians must reject this attempt to punish practicing midwives for the failures of our state’s hospitals.
John G. Dew is a graduate of the University of Mississippi, class of 2016. He is the founder and co-host of The Millennial Media Offensive Podcast.