The system governing California's licensed midwives poses a predicament: While a 1993 law mandates that home births must be overseen by a supervising physician, doctors, fearful of losing their malpractice insurance, stay away.
The Medical Board of California deals with the stalemate by not penalizing midwives who deliver babies without a physician present.
"We're not going after them with regards to physician oversight at this time at all," said spokeswoman Cassandra Hockenson.
The requirement does, however, block insurance policies – including Medi-Cal, California's insurance program for the poor – from covering midwives. As a result, midwives and advocates say, women across California are being discouraged from pursuing home births.