Midwives for Universal Healthcare: Activism for a more Equitable Healthcare System

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Midwives for Universal Healthcare (MUH) is a group of activist midwives, midwifery students, and birthworkers that formed organically in 2018 following an impassioned plea from founding member Susan Kamin on ACNM Connect. MUH became an official caucus of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) in 2019. As of June 2021, we currently have 122 followers on ACNM Connect and 770 followers on Facebook. The mission of Midwives for Universal Healthcare is to create awareness about the need for healthcare reform for all residents of the United States by providing resources on education, advocacy, and community engagement. We believe that healthcare is a basic human right. Our vision is to live in a country where everyone has access to equitable, affordable, high-quality healthcare for improved health outcomes and midwifery care is integral to this system.

Functional models of universal healthcare are currently in use in 32 industrialized nations, and studies have shown that such a system is not only feasible in the US but crucial to improving our health outcomes.1, 2 As of 2019, ACNM’s official position is that access to healthcare is a human right. Moreover, MUH believes that universal access to healthcare is a crucial step to providing truly equitable, anti-racist care.3 Because of midwives’ crucial role in improving the health and lives of our patients, we play an especially vital role in advocating for a more just, accessible healthcare system. Thus, we at MUH feel it is essential and urgent that we implement a universal healthcare model in the US. 

In its short existence as a group, MUH has grown its membership by leaps and bounds. We have active members in almost every region of the country and are continuing to grow and gain support with 10-25 people regularly attending our monthly virtual meetings. In 2019, we performed a close analysis of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 and discovered that midwives were not included in the language of the bill. We constructed several advocacy talking points and had meetings with the healthcare policy staff of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the bill’s primary sponsor, to advocate for midwifery inclusion and representation as this universal healthcare bill moved through Congress. We have continued this productive relationship with the Congresswoman’s healthcare policy staff and are still in contact with them.

Our vision, as we continue to grow, is to educate our colleagues on and galvanize support for a universal healthcare system in the US. We foresee a future where many more of our fellow midwives stand with us in advocating for universal healthcare, both within our midwifery communities and with our local, state, and federal legislators. Our goal in the short term is to increase our fellow midwives’ knowledge and understanding of universal healthcare systems. Over the longer term, we will continue to build relationships with other advocacy organizations and state and federal legislators to ensure that midwives secure seats at every table as the face of healthcare changes.

Some of our past achievements are:

Created educational toolkit for midwives on key concepts in universal healthcare

Presented at ACNM’s 2021 Annual Meeting on universal healthcare through a reproductive justice lens

Produced a social and racial justice-centered video on the importance of universal healthcare advocacy and voter turnout in the 2020 election

Published two articles in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health: “Universal Health Care for the United States: A Primer for Health Care Providers” and “Midwives and Universal Health Care: A Call to Action”

Our current projects include:

  • Conduct direct advocacy with state and national legislators to ensure midwifery representation and inclusion in current and future healthcare legislation
  • Coalition-build with other universal healthcare advocacy groups such as Maine ALLCare, Health Care is a Human Right, One Payer States, etc.
  • Support of our colleagues in New York as they advocate for New York State to move toward a universal healthcare approach
  • Support midwife candidates for elective office who make universal healthcare a part of their legislative platform
  • Encourage midwives to work with single-payer or universal healthcare organizations in their state to increase awareness of midwifery, such as Physicians for a National Health Program and National Nurses United

As we move forward, we are hoping to build relationships with other social justice and legislative advocacy groups both within and beyond ACNM. We are deeply encouraged by all that we have accomplished so far and look forward to continuing our advocacy as we grow. If you are interested in learning more, please follow us on ACNM Connect or social media at Midwives for Universal Healthcare. We are currently recruiting for exciting leadership opportunities within the group and we hope you join us! 

References:

1.         Foreign Countries with Universal Health Care. New York State Department of Health. Accessed 25 September, 2020. https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/hcra/univ_hlth_care.htm

2.         AP G, AS P, EM F, BH S, MC F. Improving the prognosis of health care in the USA. Lancet (London, England). 02/15/2020 2020;395(10223)doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)33019-3

3.         J C-P, A M, M K, N M, D G. Moving towards anti-racist praxis in medicine. Lancet (London, England). 08/15/2020 2020;396(10249)doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31543-9

4.         J S, H S, S G, A S, D D. Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. 08/21/2013 2013;(8)doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004667.pub3