HCN News & Notes

Comerford Bill on Birth Centers Scheduled for Public Hearing

BOSTON — A bill filed by state Sen. Jo Comerford has been scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday, June 6.

Birth centers are a home-like setting providing skilled midwifery care for low-risk pregnancies. There are 400 such birth centers across the U.S., but recent closures of hospital-affiliated birth centers in Massachusetts have reduced the already-limited access to this birth option for families here.

Currently, Massachusetts has just one birth center operating: Seven Sisters Midwifery and Community Birth Center in Northampton.

“An Act Updating the Regulations Governing Licensed Birth Centers in Massachusetts,” filed by Comerford and state Reps. Manny Cruz and Chynah Tyler, directs the Department of Public Health to promulgate updated regulations that are consistent with the licensed practice of midwives and physicians and national standards to maximize safety and expand access to birth options. This approach is consistent with the recent reports from the Commission on Racial Inequities in Maternal Health and the Health Policy Commission that highlighted the benefits of birth centers and recommended addressing regulatory barriers to scaling up birth centers.

The hearing begins at 1 p.m. in the Massachusetts State House, Gardner Auditorium, and online at malegislature.gov. Members of the public are welcome to submit written testimony to the committee at jointcommittee.publichealth@malegislature.gov.