Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Proposed Ohio Bill Expanding Doula Services Would Improve Maternal Health and Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes
Op ed from a former fellow at the Center for Constitutional Law at Akron and research assistant to our Gender & Law Prof Blog.
Morgan Foster, Expansion of Doula Services Would Help Ohio Improve Maternal Health, Address Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes, cleveland.com
Sponsors drafted House Bill 142 with women of color in mind. In joint sponsor testimony, former State Rep. Erica C. Crawley and Rep. Thomas Brinkman reported that, “Black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women, accounting for 34% of pregnancy-related deaths while only making up 17% of women giving birth in Ohio.
According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, only five states have a higher Black infant mortality rate than Ohio. Over the last decade, Ohio’s infant mortality disparity between Black and white infants increased by 26%. For Black women in Ohio, the preterm birth rate is 49% higher than the rate among all other women.
House Bill 142 would require Medicaid to cover doula services, which have proven to reduce racial disparities in birth outcomes. A doula is a trained, nonmedical professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman shortly before, during, and after her pregnancy, regardless of whether the woman’s pregnancy results in a live birth.
The benefits are clear. That is why New York, Oregon, and Minnesota have implemented legislation in which Medicaid will provide reimbursement for doula services. California may be the next state to take this step, and Ohio has an opportunity to join as a leader on this issue.
One reason more states do not cover doula services is because there is not a standard certification or registration process.
Ohio’s proposed bill would address this concern by creating this process with the Ohio Board of Nursing, establishing standards and procedures for issuing certificates to doulas. Once implemented, only certified doulas could call themselves such, or face penalty by the Board.