Freestanding Birth Centers – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Freestanding Birth Centers

For more information about this program please contact:

Margie Schaps
MPH, Executive Director

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Freestanding Birth Centers

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For more than 30 years, Health & Medicine’s Birth Center Task Force has been at the forefront of the movement to expand birth centers in Illinois. Birth centers provide a space for women to give birth outside of their home following a normal, uncomplicated, and low-risk pregnancy. They offer cost-effective, high-quality prenatal care and obstetrical services in conjunction with other community health care services, offering women an additional option when choosing where to give birth in Illinois. 

In 2021, Health & Medicine amplified our birth center advocacy with a fiscal sponsorship of the new Chicago Southside Birth Center. The Center will offer professional healthcare and counseling services embedded in the local community and led by Black midwives. 

Throughout 2021, our Birth Center Task Force actively led efforts to expand the availability of birth centers in Illinois following three key developments in mid-2020: 

  • Interest by two certified nurse midwives who sought to open a new birth center in the growing obstetrical desert on Chicago’s south side;
  • Two statewide maternity-related task forces recommending expansion of the birth center model in Illinois; and
  • Reimbursement challenges from Medicaid that have plagued Illinois’ two existing birth centers—the Birth Center at PCC Community Wellness Center (an FQHC-run center in Berwyn) and the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal (a private, downstate center run by two OBGYNs)—and threaten to embroil two forthcoming centers planned for the southwest suburb of Burr Ridge and on Chicago’s north side. 

In response, the Health & Medicine Task Force, along with legislative partners, initiated a two-prong legislative approach last session. This included a “quick fix” tweak of the current language in the Alternative Health Care Delivery Act that increases the maximum number of birth centers in the metro Chicago area from four to six. The second initiative involved the creation of a separate licensing category for birth centers in Illinois to alleviate some of the reimbursement issues. 

In parallel with this work, Health & Medicine has taken the lead on related efforts to create a licensing category for certified professional midwives in Illinois and to establish a pilot project that studies the benefits of home births for pregnant persons of color who receive Medicaid. 

To join the Birth Center Task Force, please email Margie Schaps at

Illinois FBC Legislation and Related Resources: