The House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill to permit and regulate the practice of licensed certified professional midwives.

Senate Bill 136, which previously passed the Senate, was approved on a 9-3 vote and now heads to the House floor. The committee rejected an amendment on a 7-5 vote that would have established a definition of a low-risk birth.

The South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations (SDAHO) opposes the bill.

Debra Owen, SDAHO’s vice president of state and federal relations, said members support home births, but only with certified professional nurse midwives who have formal medical training. Owen urged passage of the amendment, saying it would provide more protection for mothers and their unborn children by limiting CPMs’ scope to the lowest risk births.

Bill supporter Debbie Pease, of South Dakota BirthMatters, urged rejection of the amendment, saying the definition of low risk should be in rules not codified law.

Dr. Steve Schroeder, a family physician in Miller, said he respects the patient’s right to choose, but he has concerns with SB 136 about patient safety. Schroeder said it’s hard to define low risk, as low risk can suddenly become high risk within minutes.

Nick Kotzea, Sanford’s senior legislative affairs specialist, said proponents of the bill are asking the legislature to lower the professional standards for those who market themselves as home birth practitioners. Kotzea said passage would lower the chance of successful birth outcomes.

Also testifying against SB 136 were: Dean Krogman, chief lobbyist for the South Dakota State Medical Association; Dr. Kimberlee McKay, an obstetrician-gynecologist for Avera Health in Sioux Falls; and Danielle Yeager, a Montana woman who used a CPM for her home birth and lost her baby.