LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) has introduced a bill to expand Medicaid guidelines by allowing expectant mothers, who are Medicaid recipients, to receive doula services before, during, and after childbirth for up to 60 days of postpartum care. 

In the process, Senate Bill 965 would help bridge the racial disparity in health between white mothers and Black and Brown mothers. Allowing expanded obstetric services for women could help lower the infant mortality rate for Black women, which is 2.3 times higher than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

“Access to equitable and affordable health care for all women should be a right and not a privilege,” Sen. Geiss said. “An important step to solving the racial injustices in this nation starts at childbirth — and by removing the obstacles that prevent Black and Brown mothers from bringing healthy children into this world.”

Doulas are health professionals trained in all aspects of childbirth who provide expectant mothers with continuous physical, emotional, and informational support. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist have said that continuous labor support by a doula is associated with improved labor outcomes.

The nation has seen a larger trend in providing access to community-based doulas who have training and are aware of the racial discrimination that occurs throughout the medical field. Doulas act as advocates for mothers, while providing health services that result in shorter labor times, reduction in need for pain medication, and a lower infant mortality rate.

“We must commit to changing the health outcomes for all women of color, and this bill starts the process of dismantling the institutionalized racism that is prevalent in America’s health system,” Sen. Geiss said.

Senate Bill 965 was referred to the Committee on Health Policy and Human Services.