AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- A new freestanding birth center may soon be coming to Augusta, but something is standing in its way.
The executive Director of Augusta Birth Center is suing the state of Georgia, challenging the state’s Certificate of Need regulations. It requires her to have a local hospital to agree to accept a transfer of patients in case of emergency.
Katie Chubb believes there is a need in Augusta for a birth center, an alternative for mothers who don’t want to give birth in a hospital. Right now the only other option is home birth, and available midwives are limited.
“Augusta, Ga is one of the lowest ranking in maternal mortality rates in the United States. We’re just below Iraq but just above Libya,” explained Chubb.
Chubb was inspired to open Augusta Birth Center by her own experience with one, and the lack of a birth center nearby.
“I traveled two and a half hours to the Atlanta Birth Center to have my son, Evander, two and a half years ago. And the care I received there was exceptional. It was fantastic,” she said.
When Chubb couldn’t get any of the local hospitals to enter into the transfer agreement required by Georgia, she reached out to Pacific Legal Foundation to file a lawsuit.
“This provision that requires you to enter into a transfer agreement with a local hospital before you can secure a certificate, even if you’ve checked every other box in the program, it just works to give hospitals veto power over new services. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Augusta,” said Joshua Polk an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation.
Polk said the rule is unconstitutional and redundant, because hospitals are already required by federal law to accept emergency patients. He goes on to say the provision strips the rights of mothers to choose how they want to have their babies.
Kari Grover chose a home birth this past Christmas because, for her, hospital birth wasn’t an option.
“We were looking at options and had had two unmedicated births prior. One in a birthing center, one in a hospital. And we really enjoyed our birthing center experience,” said Grover. “So I started looking at like, oh there must be a birthing center here and the closest I found was in Savannah.”
Grover said that, while she loved her home birth experience and will do it again, she fully supports the opening of a birthing center in Augusta.
“I know there are a lot of women who don’t necessarily qualify for home birth, but can have a birthing center birth. And the birthing center’s going to be so much more than just about delivering babies,” she said.
Chubb hopes that by winning the lawsuit she’ll be able to provide a safe option for women who prefer not to give birth in a hospital, while also providing education.
The lawsuit was filed on August 17th.
There is no court date yet.