Lowcountry moms protest DHEC's regulation

By Nikki

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Many Lowcountry moms say they don't want to be told where they can give birth.

Monday, hundreds of moms with signs in their hands gathered at the College of Charleston for a rally.

They said they're upset with the way DHEC is now interpreting a twenty-year-old law.

Lesley Rathbun, the owner of Charleston Birth Place, said DHEC's stance on the law could force her to close her doors on Dec. 6.

"We want reasonable regulations," said one protester.

"I think it would be a tragedy to lose the birth center," said mom-to-be Heather Johnson.{}

Johnson is scheduled to deliver her first child at Charleston Birth Place in April.

"My heart is set on delivering at the birth center with the midwives.{} I've already grown very attached to them," she said.{} "Women should have the right to choose how they want to labor and how they want their birth to go."

Laura Evans, an attorney for Charleston Birth Place, said in the past, doctors only had to be available for consultation by phone. Now, she said DHEC is taking the law one step further.

"When we found out in September [DHEC] was going to completely reverse their position and require a physical presence, we actually went up to DHEC and asked why," said Evans.{} "They really gave us no good answer."

According to DHEC's director, the agency is not re-interpreting the law but merely enforcing it.

"The problem remains that the physical presence of a physician is not required by statute. It's not required by the national accreditation standards," said Evans.

According to letters DHEC sent to Charleston Birth Place, "a physician must be on call and available to provide medical assistance at the birthing center at all times."

Rathbun said that's not what her business was originally told.

She added that she provided DHEC with the agreements she has in place with area and said she doesn't understand why her business was cited.

Evans says if her client and DHEC can't resolve the issue by Wednesday, she plans to file an injunction to prevent DHEC from enforcing its stance on the law.

DHEC's director said in a letter to the birthing center's attorney that it, "will not waiver in its position."

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