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The Hawaii Independent: New home birth bill language a victory for all citizens
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New home birth bill language a victory for all citizens

Sen. Josh Green's new home birth bill heeds emotional public testimony from mothers, midwives and traditional healers. But the victory is much bigger than that.

Senator Josh Green was a physician before he was a legislator. As chair of the Senate Health Committee (HTH), he had proposed a bill (SB 2569) that would have required home birth providers to be licensed beginning on 7/1/2015, to keep records and to meet minimum educational and training requirements through a home birth safety board. Advocates for the bill say that it would make home births, which are not currently regulated, safer for women and their babies.

On Monday though, the bill attracted hours of emotional testimony from mothers, midwives, native Hawaiians, traditional healers and conventional doctors. Afterward, Green said the level of passion in the testimony took him by surprise.

Today, he announced that he would go ahead with a Health Committee proposal to gut the original language from his own bill and replace it with language that would create a taskforce comprised of varied stakeholders including mothers who have given birth at home, traditional healers and midwives and physicians to discuss the issue together.

“At this point, [the bill] doesn’t place any mandates on anybody and leaves absolutely open a discussion for all members of this particular discipline—that of delivering babies,” said Green about the new language.

While this is an obvious victory for the women, midwives and traditional healers who testified against the original bill on Monday, the real victory is bigger than that. Through the legislative process of public hearings and testimony, the voice of the public was not just heard, but heeded.

“I suggest you continue to stay involved and that you let people know that if you get involved, you’ve got more power,” said republican Senator Sam Slom. “This is, after all, a government of the people, and you are the people. Had you all not come the other day, I guarantee the government would be in your birthing room.”

Today’s proceedings are a sign that, although the legislative process often seems like a brick wall for the public; that although testimony often appears to be ignored, this is not always the case. It is possible to influence our legislators and bend them to our will. It is therefore as important as ever to show up and testify with as many like minded citizens as possible to make legislators listen to the will of the people—whether it be over Kakaʻako, Koʻolau Loa, the ʻEwa plain, GMOs, ʻiwi kupuna, the Thrity Meter Telescope, houselessness or liveable wages.

The recommendation to change the language of the bill to that of implementing a taskforce was passed unanimously by the HTH as well as the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) and the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. The language must be completed and filed with the Senate clerk by Thursday night in order to make it’s next referral date on Friday.

The joint CPN and HTH committees also passed several other bills out of committee at today’s hearing: SB 2574, which broadens the type of care-providers who can be licensed to prescribe medical marijuana; SB 3085, which appropriates funds for a forensic facility; and SB 3064, which allows the state to partner with non-profit hospitals.