The laws of South Dakota pertaining to midwives and homebirth

The laws of South Dakota pertaining to homebirth and midwifery are few. There is no specific law prohibiting midwifery. Midwives were the standard of care at the start of the 1900s. Physician practice was not regulated in South Dakota until 1939 when "Practitioners of the Healing Arts in General" was passed. (See Chapter 36-2) The medical practice act in South Dakota never claimed birth as part of their scope, and midwives continued to practice freely. By the 1950s half of the States births were happening in hospitals, the remainder continued at home.

In 1979 the practice of nurse-midwives was recognized in South Dakota. (CH 36-9A) A section of this law prohibits anyone not licensed as a nurse-midwife to practice or even offer to practice as a nurse-midwife. Recall that nurse-midwives (CNMs) are nurses with advanced training in the reproductive healthcare of well women. CNM practice includes childbirth, but their scope extends far beyond the childbearing year. CNM training is hospital based and only two percent of CNMs nationwide attend homebirths at all.

Midwives were known to exist in South Dakota. Laws regarding the use of eye medication at the time of birth refer to midwives. (CH 34-24-6,8,9,15) In 1978, one year prior to the legal recognition of nurse-midwives, the law requiring use of eye medication was amended, and even after the amendment "midwife" was left in the law. Midwives were still practicing and remained included in the law. (CH 34-24-8)

In cases where midwives have faced charges in South Dakota they have been accused of practicing nurse-midwifery without a license. While some South Dakota courts have recognized the distinction between midwifery (independent practice in the out-of-hospital setting limited to the childbearing year) and nurse-midwifery (advanced degree nurse, practice requiring collaborative agreement with a physician, encompassing the lifespan of reproductive concerns and trained entirely in hospital and clinics) other courts have not recognized the differences and instead judgment was against the midwives.