Lawmaker pre-files bill allowing birthing center

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Parents planning for the birth of a child would have an additional option under legislation pre-filed by State Rep. Jason Nemes for consideration during the 2021 Legislative Session.

The measure, BR 274, proposes to exempt birthing centers from obtaining a certificate of need (CON), therefore eliminating unnecessary red tape that prevents licensed birthing centers from opening in Kentucky.

Birthing centers would provide care during labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period under the supervision and regulation of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

According to a National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL) report, births in birth centers increased by 56 percent between 2007 and 2015, with approximately 16,000 births in 2015.

“Birthing centers are becoming more and more popular because they offer a different option to the birthing experience than that of a traditional hospital setting,” said Nemes, who represents parts of Jefferson and Oldham counties. “Clearly, this doesn’t apply to high-risk pregnancies or any situations where the mother or child is at risk, but families deserve the right to welcome their children into the world in a way that best suits them.”

Nemes’s proposal builds on legislation passed by the 2019 General Assembly, which permits nationally credentialed Certified Professional Midwives to obtain a license to practice in Kentucky, expanding birthing options for expecting mothers. BR 274 would also add an additional birthing option in the Commonwealth.

“This bill is the natural next step in expanding birthing options for expecting mothers and their families,” Nemes added. “I look forward to discussing this proposal with my colleagues when we return for the 2021 Legislative Session in just a few short months.”

Rep. Russell Webber, who carried the midwives legislation through the House, praised the proposed measure. Webber has co-sponsored BR 274.

“I commend my colleague, Rep. Nemes, for bringing this important issue to the forefront, and I’m looking forward to working with him to get it through the legislature,” Webber said. “Women and families throughout the Commonwealth deserve the opportunity to choose what birthing option fits them. I strongly support this measure because it gives additional options to those welcoming a new child.”

Mary Kathryn DeLodder, leader of the Kentucky Birth Coalition, said this proposed legislation would help women and families have the birthing experience that is right for them.

“We are pleased to see that Kentucky lawmakers are working hard to bring birthing centers to the Commonwealth,” DeLodder said. “The Kentucky Birth Coalition strongly stands behind this legislative initiative because we know having the option to welcome a child in the comfort of a birthing center is something that many Kentuckians are wanting. We support this legislation and look forward to advocating for its successful passage through the General Assembly.”

All birthing centers would require accreditation by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birthing Centers. Furthermore, a birthing facility would have to follow guidelines from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services consistent with the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) Standards for Birth Centers.

If signed into law, this proposal would be known as the Mary Carol Akers Birth Centers Act. Akers is a retired Certified Nurse Midwife who served Hardin and surrounding counties in central Kentucky. She was a longtime advocate for allowing birthing centers in Kentucky. She spent the last decade of her career prior to her retirement championing birthing centers as a viable option for expectant mothers.

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