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Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, chatted with Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, minutes after the South Dakota Senate voted to legalize the use of midwives Wednesday.  (Bob Mercer/State Capitol Bureau)

Families who want midwives to deliver their babies in their homes, rather than going to hospitals with doctors, might soon get their way in South Dakota.

The state Senate approved a midwives-licensing act Wednesday. The 29-6 tally surprised the prime sponsor, Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark.

The victory came one year after a licensing bill failed in the Senate on a 16-19 vote, after it had passed in the House of Representatives 54-13.

The current legislation now heads to the House for consideration. The main sponsor there is House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte.

The legislation last year would have placed midwives under a special committee with the state Board of Nursing.

The current proposal would create a certification system and a five-member board of certified professional midwives within the state Department of Health.

Greenfield thanked Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, for her support Wednesday. Soholt, who is a registered nurse and is women’s health director at Avera Medical Group, opposed the 2016 legislation.

He described Soholt in his closing remarks as “the nurse who knows more than anyone on the (Senate) floor.”

Several senators gave credit to Debbie Pease of Centerville, who has lobbied since 2012 for legalizing the use of midwives.

Sen. Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids, said Wednesday she wouldn’t use a midwife but attested to many people who would.

“I think we owe it to the people of South Dakota to give them that chance,” Langer said. She was prime sponsor of the 2016 legislation while a member in the House.

The effort stretches back to the 1990s. “This has been a 23-year gestation period,” said Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City. “This baby is long overdue.”

Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, said the legislation would bring South Dakota into line with a majority of the nation.

“There’s not been one effort across those 30 states to rescind this bill,” Tapio said.

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