New York State Senate quietly passed a bill on June 18, 2019 that assigns the state as the certifying organization for all doulas within the state. You can read the bill in its entirety here. (Do bear in mind that this is a work in progress and may evolve. At the time of publishing, bill A364 was at amendment B.)
This bill has come as a surprise to most doula training organizations within and outside of the state of New York. Many organizations have penned responses to the Governor of New York asking for revisions or veto of the law in its current form. A review of the different responses to the proposed law is very informative in helping to formulate one’s own opinion.
Below is our company’s response to Governer Cuomo of New York:
As owner/manager of trainers for New Beginnings Doula Training and experienced labor and delivery nurse, it has been brought to my attention that Senate bill A00364B and S-03344-B has passed the Senate and is waiting to be signed. I am writing to voice my concerns about this bill and the possible negative side effects that may arise from its passage.
As someone who has followed the research on maternal mortality and disparities in the birthing world for over a decade now, I applaud efforts to expand the use of doulas and labor support professionals in our healthcare system. That said, I feel this bill has a few issues that are of concern.
1) This bill seems to have been written without support or consultation of the very profession it is working the expand. I am also concerned that it was written without thoroughly investigated the doula profession’s body of knowledge as can be found in research and theories.
Professional accountability of any profession is usually based on a particular body of knowledge that is unique to that profession. Ideally, that knowledge is based on practices that come from theories, research, and practical knowledge developed by experienced practitioners.
I would advise that experienced doulas, training organizations, and those who have used doula services be consulted, in order to legislate any sort of bill that would regulate the profession of a doula.
2) This bill may restrict rather than expand the care a doula may be able to give. It would do this in a number of ways, starting with by creating more barriers for doulas to overcome. This is not necessary, as the care a doula gives is not medical. Other health professionals are regulated because they may pose a risk of harm if practiced by someone who is not prepared. If a doula is working within current laws already passed (i.e. not advising or practicing medicine without a license) and within their scope of practice, they would pose no harm.
Additionally, it would restrict access because a possible interpretation of the law makes it seem that no one could provide doula services unless “certified” by the state. This will make it possible for current systems in place to restrict someone who is offering doula care on the basis that they are not certified.
I ask that you veto this bill in order to move forward with one that will include experts in this field and work to expand the work of the doula rather than restrict it.
Rachel Leavitt RN, BSN, CD
New Beginnings Childbirth Services