- Closure of hospital leaves practitioners without backing or insurance, driving home births underground
A midwife tests a newborn baby's reflexes after a home birth.
As residents of the world's consumer capital, New Yorkers can have anything delivered to their door at any time. They can have their hair cut in the living room, have champagne and caviar rushed to them on a whim, enjoy a shiatsu massage in their own bed or invite a clairvoyant to predict their future from Tarot cards laid out on the kitchen table.
But there is one thing that is currently unavailable for delivery to those who live in this most can-do of metropolises. Women can not legally give birth at home in the presence of a trained and experienced midwife.
This city of more than 8 million people, with its reputation for being at the cutting-edge of modern urban living, now lacks a single midwife legally permitted to help women have a baby in their own homes. "It's pretty shocking that in a city where you can get anything any hour of the day a person cannot give birth at home with a trained practitioner," said Elan McAllister, president of the New York-based Choices in Childbirth.
The collapse of New York's legal home birth midwifery services has come as a result of the closure two weeks ago of one of the most progressive hospitals in the city, St Vincent's in Manhattan. When the bankrupt hospital shut its doors on 30 April the midwives suddenly found themselves without any backing or support.
There are 13 midwives who practise home births in New York, and under a system introduced in 1992 they are all obliged under state law to be approved by a hospital or obstetrician, on top of their professional training.
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