birth center 082321CHICAGO – A measure led by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) to expand the amount of birthing center licenses in Illinois was signed into law Friday by Governor JB Pritzker.

“Tragically, 75 women die every year while pregnant or within a year of pregnancy,” Van Pelt said. “It is even more heartbreaking to know that four out of five pregnancy-related deaths could have been preventable. That is why this measure is so important – we must do everything we can to combat the issues of maternal mortality, including increasing birthing centers.”

Currently, the Alternative Health Care Delivery Act provides for 10 birthing center licenses: four birthing center licenses in the Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, or Will Counties; three in municipalities with a population of 50,000 or more not located in the collar counties; and three in rural areas.

This initiative expands the available licenses for birthing centers under the Alternative Health Care Delivery Demonstration Program from 10 to 17, providing that birth center alternative health care models shall be located in the Westside of Chicago, the Southside of Chicago and East St. Louis.

Only four hospitals on Chicago’s south side provide maternity services: Mercy Hospital, University of Chicago, Roseland Hospital and Trinity Hospital. Mercy Hospital, which is in transition to another owner after filing for bankruptcy, delivered 900 babies last year.

“The birthing centers in place now serve hundreds of mothers, and more centers are needed to serve other demographics across the state,” Van Pelt said. “When you are carrying a child, or even after you have given birth to a child, your body is in the most vulnerable state of your life. We must ensure that every woman has access to the proper care to avoid maternal mortality.”

Black women in Chicago have the highest rates of severe maternal morbidity, dying at three times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related causes.

House Bill 738 is effective immediately.