Hannah Ellis wanted to talk about birth options available to Alabama women. But her impassioned speeches on that subject in the past have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, she said.
So instead, she talked about cornbread.
Ellis's short speech got some laughs and more than a few amens during Monday night's public forum hosted by the Madison County Legislative Delegation at Huntsville City Hall.
"I've stood up here many years, politely begging with tears in my eyes, and I have learned sadly that you can choke on cornbread like you can choke on Alabama politics," said Ellis, prompting guffaws around the packed room.
She began her three minutes - the time allotted to each person who wished to speak at the public forum to be heard by state legislators - by talking about House Joint Resolution 379. It passed the House last year and moves to the Senate this year.
The resolution? To declare cornbread the Official Bread of Alabama.
"I've been coming to the legislative delegation meetings for years, and I just don't recall any citizen in the room asking you to work hard to make cornbread the state bread of Alabama," she said in her speech.
Why talk about cornbread? "I was heartbroken to see legislators spend more effort on cornbread legislation than legislation helping the mothers and babies whom cornbread is supposed to feed," she said later.
I just don't recall any citizen in the room asking you to work hard to make cornbread the state bread of Alabama Ellis feels strongly that Alabama mothers deserve the right to choose to have a midwife legally attend their out-of-hospital births - something that's currently illegal in the state.
Ellis chose a Certified Professional Midwife to attend the birth of her own child, but she had to drive out of state - while in labor - to deliver in a place where her midwife could attend her without fear of being prosecuted.
"I have many friends who also drive out of state to seek midwifery care," she said. "I have other friends who hire midwives who risk prosecution to attend births in-state, and still other friends who give birth at home alone, without any professional guidance.
"Outdated state law regarding midwives is creating a hardship for us, but so far our legislators have not made us a priority."
"I felt we moms and babies needed to be heard," she said. "We love our midwives. We can't enjoy our cornbread until our midwives can enjoy their cornbread in peace, too, without fearing they will be prosecuted for helping us."
Rep. Jim Patterson answered Ellis after her speech, telling her they could do nothing unless "we can get Blue Cross-Blue Shield and places like Huntsville Hospital on board."
(Read more about the public forum and Patterson's response here.)
Ellis and other midwifery supporters with the Alabama Birth Coalition said supporters can like the Alabama Birth Coalition's Facebook page and post on social media with hashtags #chockingoncornbread #alpolitics and #freethemidwives.