WINCHESTER — A bill introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, designed to close the maternal health care gap has been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.
HB 1953 establishes a Certified Midwifery Licensure that will make the practice of professional midwifery more accessible and bring greater opportunity for qualified persons to practice midwifery.
According to a news release from Gooditis, this law will be instrumental in advancing access to maternal health care and reducing disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. By establishing a path for more midwives to practice in rural and lower-income areas, this licensure is designed to address racial and class inequities in maternal health care and increase access to maternal health providers in under-served parts of the Commonwealth.
“Midwives make a real difference in infant mortality and maternal mortality,” Gooditis said in the release. “This bill will expand access to health care in rural districts and low-income areas and help to ensure the health of both mothers and their babies.”
The bill drew widespread bipartisan support, with unanimous votes for approval in both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.
Shenandoah University currently offers a Certified Nurse-Midwifery program, and this law will create another avenue to Advanced Practice Midwifery as a Certified Midwife. Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Midwives master the same core competencies, sit for the same board exam and have identical scopes of practice. They differ only in that Certified Midwives do not need to have an active license as a registered nurse. Certified Midwives can thus practice midwifery without the significant time or financial investment in a nursing degree.
“The midwifery program at Shenandoah University was created to address poor birth outcomes in Virginia,” said Karen Feltham, the midwifery director at Shenandoah University in the release. “We are excited and ready to start educating Certified Midwives, whose work will help keep mothers and families healthy.”
The legislation goes into effect on July 1.