Birth centers watch clock as bill deadline approaches

By Ava

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) {}Time is running out for a bill designed to help birthing centers stay open across the state. Supporters are anxious to see the bill move to the state Senate.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual at one Lowcountry birthing center.

Appointments between mothers and care providers are continuing inside the Charleston Birth Place despite a looming mid-June deadline for Birth centers to abide by state Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations.

"Nothing is going to happen all of a sudden. DHEC has assured me that they don't want to close us down. And so what we have to do it to figure out how we can both move forward and get over this hurdle," said Lesley Rathbun, the{}owner of the Charleston Birth Place.

Last year DHEC sent a letter to all South Carolina birthing centers informing them that they are required to have a doctor on the premises to provide care should something go wrong.

Owners like Rathbun argue a doctor on location is not needed and doctors should only be on call. Rathbun is hoping a birth center bill will change the language in the current law.

"We've been informed that time has pretty much run out to move our bill forward this legislative session," said Rathbun.

She says birth centers are hoping for a stop-gap measure, which will allow for the bill to continue in the legislative process past the mid-June deadline set by DHEC. State Rep. Jenny Horne says the bill is in the Medical and Military Affairs Subcommittee.

"There were some concerns expressed over some certification language and we are working through the certification part of it, but the bill will receive another subcommittee," said Horne.

Horne says it should move to the House floor but the Senate may not receive the bill by the May 1 cross-over deadline.

"We've kind of run out of time in order to get this done by June unless the senate by 2/3 majority puts the birth center bill on special order," said Horne. {}

The Birth Place rally has been planned for at 11:00 a.m.{}Saturday on the Cistern at the College of Charleston.{}

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