CHEYENNE — When Cheyenne attorney Andrew Emrich was working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., his wife gave birth to four children at home in northern Virginia with the help of a midwife.
“We came to appreciate that method of care. It was a good fit for us,” he said Thursday.
When the Emrichs moved to Cheyenne in 2005, they began to look for a midwife to help with the delivery of their fifth child.
They were surprised to learn midwifery is illegal in Wyoming.
“So my wife and I decided to do what we could do to change that,” said Emrich, a Casper native.
The Emrichs’ fifth child was born with a midwife in Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.
The Emrichs are among a large group of home birth advocates who have supported a bill to legalize the profession of midwifery.
The Senate on Thursday gave initial approval to a revised bill, Senate File 48, to require training for midwives and set up a board to govern the profession.
Last year the bill passed the Senate and died in the House Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services.
This year Emrich said the big difference is the leadership of a member of that House committee, Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell.
“She really has shepherded this bill through over the last 12 months or so. She convened a meeting of all the stakeholders in Sheridan in September and has since worked through a whole series of amendments,” he said. “I think our chances are much better this year.”
Another key difference, he said, is the Wyoming Medical Society has removed its opposition as the result of a series of amendments to the bill and compromises.
He said his group has hundreds of interested people on its e-mail list from throughout Wyoming.
With the exception of Wyoming and Nevada, all the Western states have certified professional midwives.
“It really is growing and seems to be growing and seems to be something that fits the rural states,” he said, because so many rural areas do not have obstetricians.
When the bill came up Thursday on the floor of the Senate, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services, Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, commended the medical society and midwives and their supporters for working so hard to iron out their differences.
He said the bill now set up a board of seven members including one physician and has more stringent education requirements.
Sen. Wayne Johnson, R-Cheyenne, the bill sponsor, said midwives from Colorado, Utah and Idaho are waiting for the bill to pass so they can move here and practice.
“It’s time for this bill and this law in Wyoming,” Johnson said.
The bill comes up for second reading in the Senate today.
Contact Joan Barron at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-632-1244.