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Call the midwife? State Senate passes measure to license midwives without nursing degrees to ‘give folks options and choices’

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said the bill creating a licensing process for midwives is a “historic measure,” one that has been in the works since 1986. 

A certified nurse-midwife examines a patient at a Chicago hospital in 1993.
A certified nurse-midwife examines a patient at a Chicago hospital in 1993.
Chicago Sun Times archives

Midwifery moved a step closer to becoming a licensed profession in Illinois on Wednesday thanks to a measure advanced by state senators during the second day of the fall veto session.

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said the bill creating a licensing process for midwives is a “historic measure,” one that has been in the works since 1986.

“When we talk about maternal health for women, especially Black and Brown women, now we give folks options and choices to help advocate for them and draw down the horrible maternal morbidity we’re seeing across the nation,” Castro said. “Illinois is at the forefront of that.”

The bill was one of a handful state legislators passed before adjourning Wednesday, a day earlier than planned. They are not scheduled to return to Springfield until next week.

Castro’s legislation will allow for certified midwives to go through the licensing process and also creates standards for that qualification as well as education and training criteria for those seeking to be licensed as a certified professional midwife.

State Sen. Cristina Castro last year.
State Sen. Cristina Castro last year.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

The state doesn’t currently recognize certified professional midwives. Under state law, midwifery now requires a nursing degree. Registered nurses who’ve undergone advanced studies or completed certain clinical practice requirements can be recognized by the state as nurse-midwives.

Certified nurse-midwives provide women with primary health care, including gynecological exams, delivering babies and prenatal and postnatal care, according to the Illinois Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Castro’s legislation would allow midwives to be licensed and certified to perform the same services without requiring they be registered nurses.

Both Democratic and Republican senators praised Castro for getting the measure across the finish line. Senators voted 54 to 1 to send it to the House.

In the House, legislators voted to extend their ability to participate in legislative sessions remotely until the end of December — over GOP objections.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, argued, “we are elected to assemble here in the General Assembly.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, speaks on the House floor in May.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, speaks on the House floor in May.
BlueRoomStream file

“It does not do the process well if we can make a decision not to be here and still participate,” Butler said. “I understand that COVID is still among us, but my fear is that we’re going down a road where, eventually, this is going to be a common practice within the House rules outside of COVID.

“And I hope that’s not the case moving forward because it’s not the way this process is meant to work. We’re not supposed to sit in front of a computer screen and legislate.”

Despite the division, the motion passed 69 to 41. One House member voted present, and several others did not vote.

Legislators are planning to return next Tuesday. They are expected to pass newly drawn congressional maps and consider repealing a law that requires parental notification in the case of abortions for teens.