Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm in the New York Times today as the unnamed lobbyist

One of my long-term clients, the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery, is the subject of a write-up in today's New York Times (produced by the Chicago News Cooperative).

They have been pushing for 25 years or so to make it legal for non-nurses to help women have birth at home. Lots of women prefer to avoid hospital births (either because they don't like the medical interventions or they have religious or cultural reasons), but because it is illegal in Illinois for midwives to help women have home births (and then transfer them to a doctor if things go wrong or if they are a high-risk mother and thus not appropriate for a home birth), we have an underground network of a few providers without any real transparency or protections. Not good.

So they hired me a few years ago to join 20-some other states and legalize the practice to pass the Home Birth Safety Act. We've been making slow and steady progress building support among legislators (especially thanks to champions like Senator Bill Haine, Representative Mary Flowers, Representative Paul Froehlich, former Representative Julie Hamos and Representative Robyn Gabel), fighting the doctors' lobby every step of the way (and they are one tough lobby).

Today it was nice to get a little credit for that in the article:

After 30 years of trying to get the legislature to license direct-entry midwives, Illinois’s midwifery organizations are guardedly optimistic. In May, the State Senate passed the Home Birth Safety Act. A House vote is pending.
The bill’s supporters say it toughens standards and protects pregnant women and fetuses from untrained practitioners, while allowing qualified midwives to practice openly and to transport emergency cases to hospitals without fear of reprisal or arrest. (Women often register home births as “unassisted” to protect their midwives.)
State Representative Robyn Gabel, Democrat of Evanston, is the bill’s chief sponsor. “It’s an uphill battle in the House,” Ms. Gabel said.
That the bill has made it this far is testament to the midwifery community’s newfound political acumen and its first lobbyist, hired by the Coalition for Illinois Midwifery in 2006.

There's a lesson for anyone that wants to change the world: engage in politics and hire (or become) a lobbyist. It's part of Progressive Public Affairs' method of policy development. Figuring out what you want the government to do, and then lobbying the elected officials in a position to deliver that change is how you change the government, and the government is the best way to change the world.

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