by Paul Bowers
According to a press release from Charleston Birth Place, natural birthing centers around the state are no longer in immediate danger of being shut down by state regulators. All currently licensed birthing centers will remain open, according to the release.
The S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control sent letters to birth centers around the state on Saturday stating that they had 15 days to submit a plan for compliance with state law. Now DHEC is saying that the birth centers are not in danger of being shut down — and never were.
"It is not within our control to put the law on hold," says DHEC spokesperson Lindsey Evans. "As has always been the fact, DHEC has not threatened to shut the birthing centers down, but has given them a deadline to evidence compliance. If they are out of compliance, they have 6 months to get into compliance or ask the General Assembly to change the law."
Charleston Birth Place spokesperson Hunter Kerrison says the danger of a shutdown was real. "There was a danger. There was documentation provided, and yet we were told we weren't compliant. The clarification of what that meant changed based on how many media people asked a question [of DHEC]," Kerrison says.
The release from Charleston Birth Place says DHEC and the state affiliates of the American Association of Birth Centers "have agreed to work collaboratively toward resolving the recent dispute regarding physician availability."
"We look forward to working with the department to resolve the issue," says Laura Evans, the attorney for the birthing centers. "We sought a collaborative resolution from the start and are pleased that DHEC has agreed. We do not plan on filing suit today because of this agreement."