In recent months Hawai’i legislators have been voting on SB1312, a senate bill that intends to regulate midwifery within our state. While oversight in some form may be beneficial, this bill is NOT the answer. This bill specifically criminalizes cultural practitioners of birth, and all traditional and indigenous practices. It would halt the practice of all but FIVE currently practicing midwives throughout our entire state. Midwives that have been practicing homebirth for 20-40 years, but without the “right” credentials, would become illegal to continue to support families they have assisted for years.
Hawai’i has many cultural traditions in birth and there are many reasons why a mother would choose a Cultural Practitioner for herself and her family. “I chose a cultural practitioner for my birth because I knew they would take care of me mentally, physically, and spiritually in a way similar to how my ancestors brought their children into this world. They use traditional methods like laau lapaau, oli, prayer, and lomi which empowered me as a Hawaiian woman and helped prepare my ohana and I for birth. My ohana and I are Hawaiians and are in full support of the protection and perpetuation of traditional birth practices.” Honu, Taimi, and Honua
Unfortunately on Maui, our number and access to Hawaiian midwives is very low, as most of our ancient knowledge has been unavailable to us, lost by the doctrine that we need to rely on the medical industry to birth our babies.
Recently there is a handful of young Hawaiian wahine that have been working hard to revive our cultural traditions in birth, and I am one of them. Our kupuna taught us that we have everything we need to malama our bodies, and our babies, in bringing them into this life. A medical midwife is not always the midwife for all. There IS a midwife for every woman. That is why I ask all of you reading this to contact your senators by email and phone. Let them know that you care about protecting cultural practices, and a woman’s right to choose where, and with whom they give birth.
I am also attempting to gather community input for the legislators that are interested in creating a bill that serves all. If you would like to offer your mana’o, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mahalo in advance for helping to preserve our right to birth the way we see fit, in the closest way to our kupuna, and for honoring the root culture of Hawai’i!!! E ola!
“My greatest memory so far is pushing baby into this world with the sound of my midwife’s voice chanting, E Hō Mai, Honua and our ancestors around us in the spirit world chanting with her. “ – Taimi
Image Credit: Ki'i Kaho'ohanohano