Lincoln, NE; April 16, 2024: Today a certified nurse midwife filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Nebraska for prohibiting her from attending home births or operating without the permission of a physician. 

Heather Swanson is a practicing certified nurse midwife (CNM), a nurse practitioner, and the Nebraska affiliate president for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. It has long been Heather’s calling to provide childbirth services, especially to underserved communities. The ability of mothers to choose where and how to give birth is so important to her that she dedicated her entire livelihood to midwifery. She has practiced midwifery for over two decades in Texas and South Dakota, served as the director of a birth center, and teaches in a nurse practitioner program. Without the obstacles put in her way by the state, she would provide her expert midwifery services at home births in Nebraska as well.  

Home birth is legal in all 50 states. But Nebraska is the only state to outright ban CNMs from home births. The state goes so far as to make failure to comply a felony. Meanwhile, lay midwives and doulas, professionals wholly unregulated by the state, face no such restrictions.  

“Certified nurse midwives, who have extensive childbirth education and training, are uniquely excluded from attending home births, while mothers can deliver their babies with the assistance of unlicensed doulas and lay-midwives without nursing degrees, or even no one at all,” said Josh Polk, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “Nebraska’s CNM ban for home births and the physician supervision requirement violate the right of CNMs to provide critical childbirth care and the right of Nebraska’s mothers to receive that care.” 

Represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, Heather Swanson is fighting back with a federal challenge to Nebraska’s law. A win would alleviate the burden on the state’s childbirth system, allow CNMs to provide midwifery free of arbitrary restriction, and add a safe new layer of choice for expecting Nebraska mothers. 

The case is Swanson v. Hilgers filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.


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