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      Accord struck in birth center debate with DHEC

      COLUMBIA, S.C.(WCIV) - Birth centers across the state and the Department of Health andEnvironmental Control have agreed to work together to reform legislationconcerning doctor availability at the centers.

      The announcement comes daysafter birth center leaders say officials reinterpreted the wording of a law.Charleston Birth Place was considering legal filings to delay the changes andremain open.

      However, DHEC officials say thelaw is not being re-interpreted, just enforced.

      Officials at the birth centerinitially said their interpretation of the change would mean they had to close.{}

      "We look forward to workingwith the department to resolve the issue. We sought a collaborative resolutionfrom the start and are pleased that DHEC has agreed. We do not plan on filingsuit because of this agreement," said Laura Evans, the attorney for thecenters.

      The{} debate in the law comes from the wording "oncall." Birth centers had interpreted that to mean having someone they couldcall in an emergency, and it's worked like that for 20 years.

      Then DHEC said it was going torequire a doctor's presence at the birthing centers, according to birth centerofficials.

      Thousands of women signedpetitions to leave the birth centers open.

      "Assurances that the birth centerwill remain open afford us the time to work toward new legislation and theadoption of the national accreditation standards in our state," said LesleyRathburn, the president of the American Association of Birth Centers.

      An incident at a birth centerin Fort Mill sparked the re-interpretation. Inthat case the on-call doctor was not readily available.

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