The entrance to the birthing center at Day Kimball Hospital. CTMirror

Connecticut mothers will soon have more choices as to where they have their baby delivered in the state.

Gov. Ned Lamont has signed legislation allowing free-standing birth centers to operate in Connecticut, starting in 2024. These will serve as an alternative to traditional hospital maternity wards, which in some rural areas of the state are being closed down.

[RELATED: Another CT hospital petitions to close labor and delivery unit]

Lamont said the law is needed to fill geographical and financial gaps that often prevent patients from receiving essential birthing care. “No person should simply accept surviving their childbirth experiences as success,” he said. “By allowing free-standing birth centers, creating certification pathways for doulas and designing a program for universal home visiting, we are working to create better experiences for Connecticut’s families.”

The state’s Department of Public Health along with the Office of Health Strategy will oversee the licensing of birth centers.

A health department spokesperson said that existing health care providers in Connecticut can apply to open a birth center, but they could not open it on their existing hospital campuses.

Also, organizations from outside the state will be eligible to open a birth center as long as they meet all regulatory requirements and pass physical inspections.

State Attorney General William Tong said he supports the efforts to expand access to safe, licensed birthing centers, but they are “not a replacement for traditional hospitals for high-risk pregnancies, or for when unanticipated complications arise.”

Tong recently called on the state Office of Health Strategy to scrutinize the application of Johnson Memorial Hospital, owned by Trinity Health, to close its labor and delivery services department in Tolland County, saying a hard look at access to maternity health care in rural areas needs to be a priority.

This story was first published July 25, 2023 by WSHU.