Last month, more than 450 midwives and midwifery students traveled to the US Capitol to educate members of Congress on issues vital to the sustainability and growth of midwifery practice and to discuss our legislative agenda. Here is a peak into how midwives promoted woman-friendly policy one legislator at a time:
I ended up meeting with my representative by myself. I expected to meet with an aide, but ended up meeting with Representative McGovern (D-MA) himself! After recovering from my initial shock, I spoke with him about midwifery in Massachusetts and encouraged him to support the MOMS for the 21st Century Act. Not only was he nice to me, but he agreed to cosponsor the bill! As a student nurse-midwife, this was the perfect introduction to lobbying, and I am so glad that I participated!
~Christian M. Ornburn, SNM, ACNM Student Representative, Massachusetts
I had difficulty getting an appointment with Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), but was able to obtain a meeting with his aide. I met with his aide in the office for 30 minutes to discuss midwifery issues and care of women in the Rio Grande Valley. As I was leaving, I ran into my representative. I introduced myself, thanked him for his vote for health care reform, and told him how pleased we were that Medicaid payment for birth centers was included in the bill that passed. He asked me to continue our discussion and join him in the congressional elevator. I mentioned that it said congressmen only, and he smiled and said, “You are with me.” We boarded a guarded train and continued to discuss women and children's health care issues. Next he took me to a waiting area and asked me to write my name and telephone numbers while he went to cast a vote. He returned in a few minutes, took me to the exit where I could catch a taxi or bus to the Lobby Day reception, and handed me his card.
~Nivia Nieves Fisch, CNM, Texas
My visit with Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) could not have gone better! Though he was in the middle of voting, his health legislative aide whisked me off to the Capitol building because Mr. Andrews wanted to meet with me himself. The congressman and I spent a very pleasant 30 minutes discussing midwifery, health care reform, and the future of maternity care in the US. Before I could ask him, he volunteered to cosponsor Rep. Roybal-Allard's MOMS for the 21st Century bill.
~Robyn Carlisle, CNM, Mt. Royal, New Jersey
I first became aware of the importance of educating our legislators during graduate school. I quickly learned that unless the senator or representative had previously had some formal health care education, they couldn’t possibly be aware of the issues we providers face almost daily. What does it take for the issues to become important to them? The answer, at least in part, was demonstrated by the scores of midwives calling on our legislators during Lobby Day. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the momentum that our Washington midwife contingency exhibited during meetings with our senators’ assistants. I felt our voice was heard, and that felt great!
~Susan Collins, CNM, Washington