Bipartisan bills will be coming to both the Ohio House and Senate to help birth doulas receive the Medicaid support they need and improve maternal and infant outcomes in the state.
“It’s bipartisan and bicameral, and it has always been that way,” said Erica Crawley, former state representative and now current Franklin County Commissioner, at a press conference announcing the new legislation.
Doulas are non-medical professionals who are trained with evidence-based practices to help pregnant individuals go through their pregnancies, from pre-natal care to advice and help with toddlers. The care is not reimbursed through the Ohio Department of Medicaid, and often organizations providing the service work under grants and donations.
“Doula organizations do their best to provide affordable services, and they absorb a lot of that cost themselves,” Crawley said.
With 57% of pregnancy-related deaths considered preventable, and studies showing Black babies and minority groups suffer significantly more infant deaths than their white counterparts, supporters of the bills say the time to act on doula supports is now.
“Now, Ohio has the opportunity, recognizing that we are in the bottom five in the nation, we have the opportunity to fund a model that can help us improve our birth outcomes and our maternal mortality rate,” said Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.
Crawley originally introduced the legislation two general assemblies ago, and again in the 134th GA, where it passed the House with an 82-3 vote, and saw three hearings in the Senate before it hit a wall at the end of the GA.
“More than anything, we just ran out of time,” said state Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, who is co-sponsoring the bill this time with fellow Sen. Michele Reynolds, R-Canal Winchester.
The bill houses regulation of doulas within the Ohio Board of Nursing and establishes coverage with the Medicaid program in the state for doula services.
The Department of Medicaid will also be required to release annual reports on the outcomes related to doula services, including on maternal health and state fiscal impacts as well.
Hicks-Hudson said the bill has been “strengthened” since the last time around, with sponsors on both sides of the statehouse making sure the bill is “broad-based enough” to be approved by a majority of legislators.
State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, is one of the co-sponsors of the doula bill that will be entering the Ohio House, along with state Rep. Latyna Humphrey, D-Columbus.
White and Reynolds both touched on GOP pro-life priorities, saying supporting doulas in the ways written in the bill fits in with that priority.
“Valuing life and moving the needle on bringing more lives to prosperity … is a priority,” White said. “But the other piece of this is: this is good business.”
For Hicks-Hudson, who is also a member of Ohio’s Black Maternal Health Caucus, the bill would move forward improvement of birth outcomes and maternal health, but also show appreciation for the work doulas have already been doing in this state.
“It’s important that we respect their profession and we provide the resources they need to continue their work,” Hicks-Hudson said.
The bill will now be assigned a committee in both the House and Senate, where proponent and opponent testimony will be heard before it can be taken to the full chambers for a vote.Originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal. Republished here with permission.