Call of the midwives heard loud and clear: Legislators overwhelmingly vote to send Pritzker bill licensing professional midwifery

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A certified nurse-midwife examines a patient at a Chicago hospital in 1993.
A certified nurse-midwife examines a patient at a Chicago hospital in 1993. | Chicago Sun Times archives

While a measure to license certified midwives passed the House easily, another that would block state residents from using their moral beliefs as a reason to refuse to comply with COVID-19 requirements in their workplace appeared stalled in the state Senate.

Members of the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to send legislation creating a licensing process for midwives and an Illinois midwifery board to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on their final scheduled day of fall veto session.

While that measure passed easily, another that would block state residents from using their moral beliefs as a reason to refuse to comply with COVID-19 requirements in their workplace appeared stalled in the state Senate.

In the House, legislators voted 114 to 1, with three not voting, to allow for certified midwives to go through the licensing process. The bill creates standards for that qualification and sets education and training criteria for those seeking to be licensed as a certified professionals in the field.

The state doesn’t currently recognize certified professional midwives. Under state law, midwifery now requires a nursing degree. Registered nurses who’ve undergone advanced studies or completed certain clinical practice requirements can be recognized by the state as nurse-midwives.

Certified nurse-midwives provide women with primary health care, including gynecological exams, delivering babies and prenatal and postnatal care, according to the Illinois Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

A sponsor of the licensing measure, state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, said she and others had worked for over 20 years on the measure, and passing the bill would allow women more choice in their health care decisions.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, speaks on the House floor Wednesday night.
Blue Room Stream file
State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, speaks on the House floor Wednesday night.

But another health care measure’s legislative passage was a bit less smooth on Thursday.

A Senate committee voted to advance an amendment to the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act, but, by the evening a vote on the matter seemed uncertain.

Democrats contend the 1998 act was originally designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health care providers who refused to perform medical procedures — such as abortions — that they’re opposed to on a moral or religious basis.

But House Democrats and members of the Pritzker administration argue the act has been misused by some to refuse to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other efforts to curb the pandemic.

The amendment that passed the House is intended to make clear that public officials and private companies can impose COVID-19 requirements as part of conditions of employment and shields those employers from legal challenges they might face after imposing those obligations.

While the language of the amendment no longer clearly says employees can be terminated for complying with vaccine mandates or other requirements, it does allow for the conditions to be enforced. The language of the bill does not elaborate on how the measure might be implemented.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall Monday morning.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall Monday morning.

The full Senate could still vote on the measure, but senators were busy debating the revised congressional district maps late Thursday.

Legislators in the Senate also advanced a measure supported by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to encourage elective vehicle manufacturers, businesses and supply chain companies to “invest, locate and stay in the state of Illinois,” state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said while introducing the legislation.

Senators voted 55 to 0 to send the measure back to the House.

A measure to allow people in prisons the right to vote while they’re serving their sentences fell just three votes short of the 60 votes needed to pass Thursday.

That legislation, sponsored by state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, would allow a person convicted of a felony or otherwise serving a sentence in a state correctional facility to have their right to vote restored and “shall be eligible to vote not later than 14 days following his or her conviction or not later than five days before the first election following the person’s confinement.”

The West Side Democrat postponed the vote on the measure, a parliamentary move that will allow the legislation to be voted on again at a later date.

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October 28, 2021 at 10:06PM

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