Minnesota Bill Proposes Allowing Midwives to Obtain and Administer Medication

Minnesota Protest (Credits: The Hill)

On March 3, the Minnesota Legislature took a big step to assist midwives by passing and revising former laws, enabling traditional midwives to access and administer drugs for pregnant women. This move aims to address and potentially reduce the disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality among Black women.

Midwives are crucial healthcare providers for pregnant women throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. Despite their historical presence dating back to ancient times, midwives faced marginalization by the medical community in the 1900s.

It wasn’t until 1925, when Mary Breckenridge established the Frontier Nursing Service, that midwives could obtain professional licenses. As an important advocacy force, midwives play a pivotal role in underrepresented communities, particularly in championing the health of Black women.

Omnibus health and human services bill (Credits: Minnesota House of Representatives)

Black women, constituting 13% of the population, experience a pregnancy mortality rate that surpasses their demographic representation, standing at 26%, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

One contributing factor to this discrepancy is the healthcare industry’s misperception of Black women, often resulting in inadequate pain relief recommendations due to misconceptions about their pain tolerance.

Ciana Cullens, program director for Nubian Moms, underscores the significance of Black midwives in providing tailored care that resonates with Black women’s cultural backgrounds, fostering trust and rapport between patients and providers.

The legislative initiative stemmed from pharmaceutical companies’ observation that existing laws lacked clarity regarding traditional midwives’ authorization to acquire and administer medication.

Senator Sandy Pappas, the bill’s author, collaborated with judges and midwife advocacy groups to propel the legislation forward in response to a potential disruption in medication supply to midwives—the unanimous passage of the bill signals progress, recognizing midwives as indispensable partners in women’s healthcare.

Member Minnesota House (Credits: Minnesota House of Representatives)

The amended law resolves ambiguities by affirming licensed traditional midwives’ authority to receive and administer medications, including those vital for preventing hemorrhages, a leading cause of maternal deaths.

Rachel Voigt, an executive director and practicing midwife, lauds this clarification for ensuring safety in birthing settings and enabling providers to fulfill their duties effectively.

Carrie Ann Terrell, division director at the University of Minnesota, emphasizes the timeliness of the bill clarification amid concerns over women’s access to reproductive healthcare, especially in light of recent developments such as the IVF ruling in Alabama.

With the legislation, midwives can resume their essential role in delivering comprehensive medical care, resolving disruptions that hindered their work for nearly two decades.

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