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City Council affirms support for bill to increase access to perinatal doula care

(Providence, RI) – A resolution in support of RI H5609, the “Rhode Island Doula Reimbursement Act,” introduced by City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune passed the Providence City Council unanimously on Thursday, March 7, 2019. As defined by H5609, a perinatal doula is a trained professional providing continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a pregnant individual during pregnancy, labor, and up to the first six weeks of the postpartum period. This legislation will make doula care eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid and private insurance, and ensure doulas receive fair compensation for their work.

The United States has the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world; this crisis especially affects Black women who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and who suffer life-threatening complications from pregnancy twice as often as White women. From 2013-2017, the maternal mortality rate in Rhode Island was 11.2% per 100,000 live births. Studies indicate that women who receive doula support during pregnancy have lower preterm and cesarean birth rates, and doula care has been shown to lower complications during birth and require fewer obstetric interventions and shorter labor hours.

While the benefits of doula care are well-documented, many women are unable to take advantage of doula services because they cannot afford to pay the out-of-pocket expense. In Rhode Island, patients cannot use Medicaid or private insurance to pay for doula care. The lack of access to quality, compassionate, culturally competent perinatal and postpartum care provided by doulas only increases the extreme disparity and risk faced by Black women.

“Planned Parenthood of Southern New England believes that carrying a pregnancy to term should not put women’s lives at risk,” said Kafi Rouse, Vice President, Public Relations & Marketing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States is a public health crisis and its severe impact on Black women is unacceptable. As a member of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, we will fight to ensure Black women receive the high-quality care they deserve and perinatal doulas are fairly compensated for the care they provide.”

The Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom works in partnership with SisterSong and other leaders in the Reproductive Justice movement, as well as other social justice and health care organizations with a long history of advocating on behalf of their communities, to ensure women can access the social supports, services, education, and care they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.

The Rhode Island Doula Reimbursement Act, a bill introduced by Representatives Ranglin-Vassell, Kislak, Lyle, Williams, and Blazejewski in the House of Representatives on February 27, 2019, ensures perinatal doulas will receive reimbursement through Medicaid and private insurance and makes doula care eligible for coverage. This legislation will make it easier for thousands of Rhode Island women to access the care of a certified registered doula during pregnancy and the postpartum period, improving the positive health outcomes for both mother and child.

A press event for RI H5609 will be held on Thursday, March 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM in the State House Library.