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As the legislative session continues and I see more bills fail or stall, I become increasingly frustrated with Alabama’s leadership. How has the lottery bill failed yet again? With crushing inflation rates, why do legislators seem to care less about addressing the grocery tax or giving us a break on the gas tax? School choice, which should be an obvious path for Alabama, has faced endless road bumps. The latest rejection has come in the form of House Bill 164. This bill sought to expand the type of care certified midwives could provide. It would allow them to deliver a baby vaginally for women who had a cesarean section in the past. The bill failed with a vote of 5-4 on a committee with no women.

The Alabama Birthing Coalition presented this bill, pointing out the alarming statistic that sometimes over 50% of women receive C-sections, far more than is medically necessary. Research has shown how doctors, often pressured themselves by insurance policies, time restrictions and fear of lawyers, will scare women into having C-sections. But a C-section is a major abdominal surgery that comes with higher complications and a much more difficult recovery. Even worse, most hospitals will refuse to “permit” women to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), statedly because of the risk of uterine ruptures, which the National Library of Medicine reports occur in .5% of VBACs.

When health care systems refuse to offer the kind of care women seek, they look elsewhere, only to find that the state also limits their ability to seek alternate care. This despite the fact that no deaths from similar procedures have been reported by the Midwife Association of Alabama.

Now, I realize previous midwife bills hit snags since they resisted certification requirements, and that may have poisoned the well for new bills like HB164. I also admit that this topic is a bit personal for me. My mother delivered five of her seven children under the care of Certified Nurse-Midwives, with a backup doctor on call. Some of us were born at birthing centers and some at home. My mother always answered all our questions and invited us to watch the births of our younger siblings. My experience of seeing a beautiful new life start in a quiet, warm room, surrounded by family and friends, differs vastly from the traumatic stories I’ve heard far too often about hospital births.

I can already hear the protests:' but my wife had a terribly difficult birth and needed a C-section.' Of course, C-sections are medically necessary sometimes. Thank God for the developments in medicine that save the lives of so many women from dying in childbirth! Saying women should be able to give birth outside a hospital if they choose doesn’t detract from the fact that hospitals often provide good care. Everyone needs something different.

Regardless of your opinion on the midwifery, lottery, or school choice bills, it’s the larger pattern of leadership that’s most concerning. Leaders seem to make decisions based on their personal opinion or agenda, not based on the needs of who they represent.

1819 News’ own Craig Monger reported that, “State Rep. Ben Robbins (R–Talladega) opposed the bill, stating that he would not be voting for it because his wife had a positive C-section experience.” But he was elected to represent all the people of Talladega and to consider the well-being of all Alabamians. Yet he admits that his vote was based on personal experience. Did he ask his constituents in Talladega for their opinion? Would you want your representative to vote no on school choice because their kids did fine in public school, or because they genuinely think it won’t help Alabamian children? You may think that the midwifery bill only helps a handful of people and shouldn’t be compared to bills with mass appeal like school choice. But at least for younger generations of women, this is a big deal. Since moving to Huntsville, I’ve been warned by other women about Alabama’s maternity care.

It is what it is. Don’t rock the boat. Just punt the issue down the line, someone else will deal with it. From my outside perspective, that seems to be the way the game is played in Montgomery. Just keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. Who cares if Alabama wants a lottery, or to banish the grocery tax, have school choice, and wider maternity care options? We have more important things to do than address bills the people want.

This is how Alabama gets an unwarranted reputation for being backward and stagnant. These representatives are just opening themselves up for a terrible national headline: “Women Traumatized by Hospital Births Cry as All-Male Committee Rejects Their Plea For Broader Healthcare Options". I mean, come on! We’re just giving Alabama-haters ammunition.

And do our leaders not notice the irony here? After two years of fighting government health mandates and championing conservative principles of personal choice, we still can’t get a bill like this to pass committee? It’s like COVID all over again. We don’t trust you to make decisions about your health, so we’ll decide for you. You’re too stupid to do research, so your health care needs to be managed by the government.

I’m sure this committee did what they thought was best for people. Just like the grocery and gas taxes are also best for you. We should question all bills and how the legislature handles them. Why should you need the government’s permission to have a lottery? They don’t own you. It’s not the government’s job to manage your morality, health or upbringing.

Are we using different definitions of conservatism? Last I checked, conservative thought teaches individual responsibility and that leaders exist to serve the people, not to extract obedience and exercise control. How can our legislators, in good conscience, claim to uphold conservative thought and represent the needs and wants of Alabama? They demonstrate over and over again how out of touch they are. In the process, they give Alabama a bad name. Young people, who could love Alabama and prosper in our business-friendly state, may believe the mainstream media’s depiction of us and never come here.

Instead, we see things like a travel vlogger’s video about Huntsville labeled, “Is this city even in Alabama?” This negative impression of our state is simply false. When I drive down the road in North Alabama, I constantly see new restaurants and businesses, often family-owned and locally sourced. Huntsville has an exploding craft beer scene, a growing art and music culture, foundational manufacturing, and trailblazers who helped us reach the stars. From Athens to Birmingham to Mobile, I’ve seen how Alabamians are hardworking, kind, innovative people. So why must we endure a leadership who seems to endlessly expand a maze of red tape, obstructing our growth?

Alabama deserves better.

Caylah Coffeen is the host of Prayers For Life Radio in Huntsville, and a millennial who speaks up for truth and a future as bright as the stars. Her column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information

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