After a prolonged and heated battle, midwives prevailed and physician groups lost some ground when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled yesterday that midwives can deliver babies. The state's legislature already had passed a bill signed into law by Governor Matt Blunt last June permitting the delivery of newborns. The bill was, in fact, originally written to make health insurance portable. However, legislators were persuaded to add the expanded scope of practice provision for midwives. Within weeks of the bill's passage, several physician associations filed a temporary restraining order in county court to bar midwives from delivering babies, and won.
The Missouri State Medical Association, Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, Missouri Academy of Family Physicians, and St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society filed suit to invalidate the section of the bill dealing with midwifery, challenging the constitutional validity of the provision. The professional groups claimed that medical practice by unlicensed midwives could result in professional discipline of their members. The presiding judge ruled in their favor, but yesterday, that decision was overturned in the midwives' favor.
Throughout the country, physicians and midwives have engaged in fierce legal debates over the scope of practice. In many other states, it is not legal for midwives to deliver babies. It's expected that the Supreme Court ruling in Missouri could set a precedent for future cases in other states.
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