AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A bill introduced in the Georgia Senate could make way for midwives to be licensed to perform births at home in their communities.

Senate Bill 81 would license and regulate community midwives, women who go inside homes to perform births. Historically, they have been pillars of the Black community with much success. But over time in Georgia, childbirth was pushed into hospitals, making it illegal for community midwives to do their job.

“It would allow for more midwives to be accessible and skilled and competent midwives,” said Corrinna Edwards, Certified Community Midwife. “Most of the midwives have extensive training and most states, almost 40 states licensed community midwives and Georgia doesn’t.”

“My providers didn’t listen to me. I understood the bias that I was subject to and I just wanted something different. I was looking for a community midwife,” said Tiffany Townsend.

Tiffany Townsend became a midwife, licensed, certified professional and certified community, after going more than two hours away to find the best person to perform the home birth of her last child. Already a doula, she hit brick walls trying to accomplish her goal. And she’s hoping Senate Bill 81, the Georgia Community Midwife Act, helps.

“To bring forth the ability to have diversity within midwifery,” Townsend explained.

The Community Midwives National Alliance took to the Georgia State Capitol to sound the alarm on the need for community midwives to be recognized legally in the Peach State.

“People that know them, that are part of their culture, that love them and respect them,” said UmmSalaamah Abdullah Zaimah, a Traditional, Retired Nurse & Certified Community Midwife.

We spoke with a few midwives ahead of their press conference with lawmakers in Atlanta. They say historically, Blacks have delivered babies in homes with little to no deaths among both mother and child. But in the early 1900s, Sarahn Henderson said a push to move the birthing process out of homes and into hospitals created racial disparities.

“Eventually it got to where if a midwife did not turn in at least ten birth certificates by the end of the year, then she was considered not necessary. Her license and certification would not be renewed,” said Henderson, a Traditional and Community Certified Midwife.

While the image of midwives of the past were Black pillars in the community, the group said today’s system requires getting into a nursing school and getting training they feel does not compare to the Granny midwives of the past.

“Costs are very high for education. Financial barriers always show up. Access to schools,” said Jennie Joseph, a Licensed, Certified Professional and Registered Midwife.

“As long as midwives were getting paid in sweet potatoes and chickens and maybe $25 if they were lucky. As money became involved, insurance, Medicaid, then they were more interested,” said Zaimah.

State Senator Tonya Anderson is one of many sponsors on the bill including Augusta’s Senator Harold Jones. She said the bill also shines a light on the need for Medicaid expansion.

“When we talk about midwives, women having access to healthcare to avoid being a statistic in Georgia’s numbers in having the highest maternal mortality rate,” said Sen. Anderson (D-Georgia).

“It is really important that we support midwives here and abroad,” said State Senator Ed Harbison (D-Georgia).