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4/14/2021 Doula bill to be heard during Black Maternal Health Week
Doula coverage bill sponsors say pandemic lays bare disparities in health care
STATE HOUSE – It is Black Maternal Health Week, and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Rep. Liana Cassar are urging fellow policymakers to support their health equity legislation to provide more women access to doulas as a means to help address health disparities faced by communities of color.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell and Representative Cassar are sponsor and cosponsor, respectively, of legislation (2021-H 5929) to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance plans and Medicaid. Doulas are trained healthcare professionals who provide women with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and throughout the post-partum year. Research shows they improve safety, comfort and outcomes during childbirth and reduce the likelihood of cesarean sections by 39 percent. 

The bill has been scheduled for a hearing today before the House Finance Committee.

Improving access and affordability of doula services will make them more available to all women, and would make them an especially impactful resource to improve outcomes for Black and Hispanic/Latinx women.

In Rhode Island, Black women are 83% more likely to experience a severe complication at birth compared to white women. Hispanic/Latinx women are 34% more likely to experience a severe complication at or after birth compared to white women.

“It’s unacceptable that women of color and particularly Black women are dying at rates three to four times higher than white women. All women deserve a safe and healthy childbirth experience. Doulas are a proven solution, and improving women’s access to them would go a long way toward getting women, particularly women of color, and their babies off to a strong and safe start,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence). “We must take action to ensure that Black women, women of color and indigenous women have the high-quality prenatal, maternal and postnatal care they need to stay healthy and give birth to strong babies who deserve a safe start at life.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have endorsed greater use of doulas, saying “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.”  Doula services help improve outcomes for both mother and babies, decrease postpartum depression, increase the likelihood of a shorter labor, a spontaneous vaginal birth and overall positive birth experience while avoiding complications and preventable chronic conditions, among other benefits.

Black Maternal Health Week, observed annually April 11-17, is led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to deepen the national conversation about and enhance community organizing on black maternal health; amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions; center the voices of black mothers, women, families, and stakeholders; and provide a national platform for black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice.

“This is the second year that we are celebrating Black Maternal Health Week during this worldwide pandemic — a pandemic that lays bare the inequities in our health care system. Throughout the pandemic, Black and brown communities have suffered higher rates of infection, severe illness and death than the general population, while also bearing a greater burden of the economic downturn, and also confronting the inordinate violence to Black and brown bodies. It’s our hope that the social activism of the past year will push forward efforts like the doula bill, which will help address disparities in perinatal outcomes. We must use this moment to address equity and improved health outcomes for all,” said Representative Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923