Accord struck in birth center debate with DHEC - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Accord struck in birth center debate with DHEC

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) – Birth centers across the state and the Department of Health and Environmental Control have agreed to work together to reform legislation concerning doctor availability at the centers.

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

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

Officials at the birth center initially said their interpretation of the change would mean they had to close.  

"We look forward to working with the department to resolve the issue. We sought a collaborative resolution from the start and are pleased that DHEC has agreed. We do not plan on filing suit because of this agreement," said Laura Evans, the attorney for the centers.

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

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

Thousands of women signed petitions to leave the birth centers open.

"Assurances that the birth center will remain open afford us the time to work toward new legislation and the adoption of the national accreditation standards in our state," said Lesley Rathburn, the president of the American Association of Birth Centers.

An incident at a birth center in Fort Mill sparked the re-interpretation. In that case the on-call doctor was not readily available.

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