Dear MAWS community,
We recently received an open letter from one of the founding members, Suzy Myers, expressing valid concerns for the Board's decision to open all Board positions. After thoughtful discussion and careful consideration, the Board has drafted a response that we wish to share with community members. We are aware that the open letter has been shared on social media as well, so we intend to address this transparently and with sincerity.
Thanks to the tireless and altruistic work for decades from midwives like Suzy, MAWS is no longer a small ship. It has grown to a large organization, with a big membership, that aspires to be bigger and more representative of midwives in the state. We acknowledge that while not every midwife in the state is a MAWS member, our legislative work in particular impacts every Washington midwife. As you mentioned, MAWS interfaces with the Department of Health Midwifery Program, the Midwifery Advisory Committee, the JUA, the Health Care Authority, the Washington State Perinatal Collaborative, the Foundation for Health Care Quality and various other state and national midwifery organizations. MAWS has outgrown its current leadership structure. The administrative burden to communicate effectively and on an ongoing basis with these stakeholders in addition to our own highly functioning committees and our membership is unprecedented for the organization and beyond the capabilities of a volunteer run, working midwife staffed organization. It’s simply unsustainable.
The reality of non-profit organizational leadership has shifted. It’s become clear that the numbers of midwives in our community who want or are able to volunteer, especially on this sort of scale, are dwindling dramatically. The days of volunteer run boards are almost over. At some point very soon, we will need to pay our board members for their time.
The decision by the board to step aside to allow the community the opportunity for the membership to replace us if it was their wish was primarily driven by direct requests made by BIPOC and LGBTQAI+ communities for historical members and leaders of MAWS to get out of the way before they would consider being involved, as there had been harm perpetuated. There is now ample evidence that volunteer board structures perpetuate white supremacy and marginalize historically excluded and underrepresented communities. MAWS is and has been no different in this respect and we’ve been trying to acknowledge and change that.
Prior to this decision, the Board has repeatedly extended calls to the membership at AGMs and continuing education (CE) events attempting to recruit new voices and perspectives to the Board. We provided two years’ notice of the end of terms for the Executive Committee (EC) without intention to run again, in an effort to mentor a new EC with time to spare. We shifted to a co-presidency leadership model to try to alleviate the administrative burden and increase the number of voices in the executive, all while discussing the potential of less patriarchal, hierarchical leadership structures. In 2021 MAWS hired a consultant to create a training for new speakers and Board members, which we have now implemented. We created and earmarked funds for a community consultancy group to advise the Board on how to proceed with diversity, equity and inclusion work and Board restructuring which was advertised widely in both e-news and social media, at the AGM, and at CE events. No one showed up. The conversation of how to reimagine MAWS’ structure for greater representation and sustainability has been ongoing for at least four years, at nearly every open public board meeting. It became clear to this current board that organizational evolution was imperative as we watched our nominations numbers drop year after year. Coupled with the fact that our community outreach revealed a desire by marginalized communities for space to be made, for the work to be done without the current iteration of the board, and it would have been not only ill-advised but downright unethical to continue to operate as we have.
Succession planning has been a challenge for MAWS for at least the last decade. This coincides not incidentally with the sharp increases in the cost of living, lack of increases in insurance reimbursement and the current realities of home and birth center midwifery practice. The days of midwives making livable incomes working part time in group practices are over. In order to make a living today, one must maintain a sufficient volume of clients to make adequate income; given the nearly unchanged structure of reimbursement (outside of the monumental achievement of past MAWS boards to increase Medicaid reimbursement for birth centers) and the exponential increase in cost-of-living, a “sufficient volume of clients” is so significant that many midwives are unable to sustain practicing beyond 5-7 years. Add now impressive student loans to that and there are far fewer volunteer hours to go around. Our growing and evolving colleagues are justifiably not ones to work without pay. Students were once used as free labor, and thanks to the courage of students, historical and current, to challenge that structure, that’s no longer acceptable (as it wasn’t before either). But the student population that used to desire involvement in boards is also shrinking, in no small part because their educational and cost-of-living burden is outpacing their earning potential and the hours they have to dedicate unpaid to midwifery. Our unpaid students in MAWS and within the community are earning no income but, like their income-earning counterparts, are still paying $5+/gallon for gas. Asking them to further extend themselves to take on volunteer work of a monumental and growing midwifery organization is simply untenable. We cannot ask any of our colleagues, students or peers to work another unpaid job on our behalf for nothing or make them feel bad for not doing so.
Financially, MAWS is strong, having weathered the pandemic fairly well thanks to a deft pivot to webinar CE offerings, fundraising, and direct Board member contributions. Ultimately though, the future will require significant financial restructuring as well. To that end we plan the addition of a 501(c)3 structure to the organization next year, in order to continue to maintain MAWS' strong financial footing and to pursue our other significant organizational goals. This will also be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. We look forward to any support that can be provided as we fundraise for this effort.
We do not claim to have all the answers. We don’t have a “clear road map” but we’re pretty sure that most iterations of MAWS didn’t either. We empathize and honor that our predecessors were doing and did their very best for midwifery with the information they had at any given time; we hope the same trust and grace can be offered to this board. Our goals are evolving, as they have always been. Organizations, like all living things, grow and evolve; they have to, or they die. The bits that work continue on, and the bits that don’t fall or get cut away. There is still a place for volunteerism in this organization, but it will be smaller, more strategic, and less burdensome on the community as a whole and to the small cadre of committed folks who, despite themselves, just keep showing up. The last two years have shown us that MAWS is capable of phenomenal achievement with a very small board, and as we hoped, our gesture of opening space resulted in a small handful of fantastic new candidates raising their hands. At least two of our current board members plan on submitting their names as candidates for re-election to the board in this next open election cycle. If not, these folks, along with several others, intend to remain on as they promised in a continuing advisory capacity. These wonderful humans, in concert with our hard working and highly functioning committees and our Executive Director will move MAWS forward into 2023. MAWS will not die. We all love it too much and have worked too hard for too long to let that happen. It’s ailing though; we’re pruning it, so it can grow back healthier and stronger. Dismantling systems that do not work for historically marginalized people, people lacking privilege, and to serve the new generation is not just wise, it's our responsibility. We are midwives. We get out of the way to let new things be born.
With these words and our hope for the future of MAWS, we hope that our community can continue to support us as we build on top of the strong foundations that past and present Board members have laid.
Your MAWS Board, 2022
Dear MAWS Community,
We write to you with humbled hearts as the last few years have been extremely challenging for all of us in one way or another. Please take the time to read this letter in its entirety, as we feel it to be one of the most significant communications from the Midwives Association of Washington State’s history to date.
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State was formed in 1983. Since then the organization has made unprecedented progress in expanding the number of midwives in the state, the number of clients served, and our scope of practice. Until this year, with the hiring of our new Executive Director, MAWS has been an entirely volunteer-run organization. Every MAWS board member since 1983 has been a midwife, midwifery consumer, supporter or midwifery student.
MAWS was the first state midwifery organization in the country to:
The Board is justifiably proud that MAWS stands today as a leader for midwifery organizations nationally. MAWS is, without question, the longest lived, most influential and most accomplished community midwifery organization in the United States, bar none. ALL of this has been accomplished by your peers working on your behalf without compensation because, like you, they love our shared profession, our colleagues, and the families to whom we provide care.
With that said, it’s clear that over the years MAWS has also made some significant missteps as we have always been a majority white, straight, cisgender, western Washington board. We recognize that as an organization we have historically:
In recent years MAWS has faced consistent criticism from within the midwifery community for being exclusionary and dismissive to the concerns of its members and those outside the membership. We have heard these criticisms and have worked to address them to the best of our ability. Some of these measures include:
We also acknowledge that as another majority white, straight, cisgender, western Washington board, we may not be the right group of people to lead the organization moving forward.
In order to offer the greater MAWS membership the opportunity to completely reconfigure the composition of MAWS leadership, as a board, we have come to the decision to collectively resign our board positions effective December 31st, 2022.
Our intent with this move is to leave all board positions, including all officer positions, vacant for a new generation of midwives who want to assume MAWS leadership and move the organization forward.
To this end, in August a new nomination cycle for MAWS board leadership will open and the MAWS membership will have the opportunity to nominate and vote on a completely new slate of leaders.
A few current Board members are willing to stay on as an advisory committee if desired by the new board. If not desired, we will pass on our current knowledge, and step away completely.
If you are interested in a position on the MAWS board, please email email@example.com stating your intention to join the board and if you desire to be an officer by (date).
Vy Mai, our executive director, will gather the interested parties together for a discussion in September and we will begin the work of handing over the necessary information to the new members. Our intention is to have the new board in place and functional by January 2023.
What does being on the Board entail?
The new board will be free to edit this as they see fit but currently board members are expected to:
The current MAWS Board is grateful for the opportunity to have served the midwifery community of Washington and is hopeful that this step will result in an influx of new people and ideas into the organization. We remain committed to the MAWS Mission, Vision and Values and look forward to what the community has in store for all of us.
An email requesting nominations will be forthcoming.
Jen Segadelli, JD, MSM, CPM - President
Jessica Swan, MSM, LM - Vice President
Kristin Eggleston, LM, CPM - Treasurer
Louisa Severn, LM, CPM
Sunita Iyer, ND, LM
Melanie Dickson, LM, CPM
Emily Jones, MSM, LM, CPM
Natalie Jolly, PhD
Today, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood on the grounds that abortion was not “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” The desire to control fertility exists in nearly every historical society, and contraception and abortion have been tools used across time and across the world. Midwives have always served the multitude of needs of childbearing people. Historically, midwives throughout the world did not limit their services to pregnancy and birth, but rather managed several aspects of what we would now call gynecologic care, including use of drugs and procedures to regulate fertility by promoting, suppressing, or ending pregnancy. Abortion predates medicine; it predates the U.S. Constitution; and it predates political manipulation. Abortion, like midwifery, is as old as time.
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State (MAWS) recognizes and supports an individual’s right to bodily autonomy, and to make choices for their own health and well-being, and that of their family. We recognize that today's Supreme Court decision is oppressive and violating for all childbearing people, and will most deeply impact our vulnerable communities that already experience violence and inequity at the hands of the reproductive healthcare system. Abortion restrictions are deleterious to perinatal health outcomes and such restrictions increase the risk of non-evidence-based and coerced pregnancy interventions. Midwives have long been advocates for pregnant people and their infants, and know the impact that political oppression can have on the health outcomes for families. We reiterate our commitment to that advocacy today, and support each individual’s choice to make autonomous healthcare decisions suited to their needs and well-being.
We will be posting a list of resources on our website and updating it in the coming days. We are here to open space for our community, to listen and provide support however needed. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We came together this past Thursday evening to celebrate life, each other and the passing of SSB 5765; which is such a tremendous win for Washington midwives and their clients. The Midwives’ Association of Washington State would like to take this time to recognize the tragedies that have recently occurred in New York, California and Texas, and hold space for those who need support. The practice of midwifery is to help bring life into this world. These violent acts against children and BIPOC communities go against everything that we, as midwives and as an organization, advocate for. MAWS condemns all acts of violence and stands with our community and those who are grieving from the recent events, including those who have been affected by gun violence in any capacity. We actively uphold our mission: “To support Washington State midwives and the profession of midwifery by promoting reproductive justice, well-being, and access to care through professional development, advocacy, and community-based action.” We must acknowledge the issues harming our children and communities by continuing to hold ourselves and those around us responsible for our actions, and by speaking to our legislators to demand laws that combat these issues.
Freedom from gun violence is part of reproductive justice. MAWS will continue to fight for that freedom and stand with those who are doing the same. We have included resources below for those who have been impacted by gun violence, as well as additional information on organizations that are working toward more gun control. Please feel free to reach out to us with questions or additional resources that you would like to highlight.
As the sun set on March 31st, Governor Jay Inslee signed SSB 5765, turning our bill into law. This was a monumental day for Midwives across the state! To our knowledge, this officially signed bill, creating prescriptive authority pathway for licensed midwives that is autonomous and client-centered, is the first of its kind in the country. Licensed Midwives have accomplished the first critical step in a pathway to prescriptive authority. The next step will be rulemaking to clarify the eligibility and requirements for this authority — stay tuned for updates and a hosted Q&A with our team! This is a major milestone in our goal of creating a healthcare system in which Licensed Midwives can provide more comprehensive care for midwifery clients. We again want to thank Senator Emily Randall, our Lobbyist Amber Ulvenes, and our Legislative and Policy team for working so hard to get this bill passed and signed. We also want to thank all that supported us throughout this journey. We couldn't have done it without you, and we owe it to you all!
We have some exciting events in the works and cannot wait to share more details with you soon, so stay tuned for updates!
Dear Members, Supporters, and friends of MAWS,
In an effort to eliminate racism throughout our organizations and do more than pay lip service to addressing the needs of communities of colors and the disparities perpetuated by systemic and personal racism, we are offering free memberships at all levels to people of color wishing to join (or renew membership in) MAWS in 2018. We are doing this in accordance with our Equity and Inclusion Values Statement and in solidarity with the Missouri Midwives Association Midwives of Color Chapter (MMA-MOC), which stated its hope to hold its state organization “accountable to the work of eliminating racially-based disparities, increasing racial diversity, and ensuring the promotion and perpetuation of anti-racist policies and procedures” that manifest in state organizations and throughout the midwifery community. We are inspired by the efforts of the MMA-MOC to actively recruit and retain candidates of color, and by their commitment to addressing “personal, organizational and structural racism inherent in all American social structures and at all strata of human interaction” that these efforts require. [see below the full statement of the MMA-MOC]
One of MAWS’ primary goals is to ensure that all families have access to safe, effective, and quality care. However, we recognize that systemic inequities as well as the personal privilege, biases, prejudices, and limited perspective of our predominantly white-led professional association are a hindrance to that goal. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go but will constantly strive to be more aware, more welcoming, and actively inclusive. And we cannot do it without creating more space in our organization for the participation and leadership of people of color. We humbly open our doors, our hearts, and our minds so that MAWS can become a truly representative professional midwifery association, able to deliver on its promise.
The Board of Directors of the Midwives' Association of Washington State
To claim your free membership, please email email@example.com. We want to hear from you!
Click here for our Equity and Inclusion Values Statement
MMA-MOC Statement in Support of Black Midwife Demetra Seriki
In the summer of 2012, the Missouri Midwives Association held their annual retreat in Kansas City, MO. At this meeting a discussion was introduced concerning the active recruitment of candidates from the Black community into the Missouri midwifery community. At that point there were no midwives of color and only one student of color in Missouri. Missouri Midwives Association was informed at this time, that an influx of Black candidates would mean that change would have to occur within MMA to accommodate women of color. The midwives present wanted to know what that change would consist of. That change meant dealing with the personal, organizational and structural racism inherent in all American social structures and at all strata of human interaction.
In the Fall of 2017, there were enough student midwives of color, according to MMA bylaw to form our own committee, the Midwives of Color Chapter. This committee has now formed, and we would like to issue as our first official statement, our solidarity with Colorado midwife, Demetra Seriki in her fight against continued marginalization and oppression. As an official chapter of the Missouri Midwives Association, we stand against racism, oppression and inequity in any of its insidious forms. We commit to one another, to our state organization, and to the African-American community at large that we will use our collective energies to fight those forces that have kept our communities locked in perpetual poor health outcomes, especially when it comes to maternal and infant health. Many give lip service to the concerns of our community, but we will show up to do the work of supporting, protecting, and promoting maternal and infant health in Missouri’s long neglected African-American communities.
We recognize that Missouri is not only not immune, but in some ways particularly at risk for replicating some of the issues seen in other states in the midwifery community. We hope to take preventative action by holding our state organization accountable to the work of eliminating racially-based disparities, increasing racial diversity, and ensuring the promotion and perpetuation of anti-racist policies and procedures manifested in our state organization and reflected throughout the midwifery model of care as practiced in the state of Missouri.
Missouri Midwives Association- Midwives of Color Chapter
Hakima Tafunzi Payne- Chapter President
Brittany Tru Kellman- Chapter Secretary
A message from the leadership of MAWS
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State joins the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives and the American College of Nurse-Midwives in publicly denouncing and condemning white supremacy, bigotry, and racial prejudice in all its forms.
We must all take this moment to examine ourselves, recognize our own places of privilege, and level the playing field wherever possible. What are our conscious and unconscious biases? How have most of us benefited from our white supremacist society, and how do we continue to uphold it? To our professional members, we urge you to evaluate your practice for openness and inclusivity. Do your practice handouts contain images of people of color? Do your informed consents use gender inclusive language? Birth Center members, do your facilities create a welcoming space for all people? Teachers and preceptors, are you raising the next generation of midwives to be more awake? Students, are you actively listening to your cohort of different backgrounds? Parents, how do you talk to your children about race? About gender?
Everything MAWS does is centered on the goal that ALL families, regardless of race, religion, income, sexual orientation, or gender identity, should have access to safe, effective, and quality care. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go, but we are constantly striving to be more aware, more welcoming, and actively inclusive. Please join us in declaring that bigotry, prejudice, and bias have no place in our hearts, our practices, and our communities.
To our friends, colleagues, students, and clients who are Black, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, undocumented, and transgender, we care about you. You are safe with us. Your lives matter. You are not a distraction. You are our family.
With love and solidarity,
The Midwives’ Association of Washington State