Legislation Ensures Doulas’ Access to Hospitals and Birthing Facilities to Accompany Pregnant Mothers
TRENTON – First Lady Tammy Murphy today celebrated Governor Phil Murphy’s signing of S-4119/A-5739, which ensures every mother has the right to a doula in a hospital or birth center. On November 20, 2023, the First Lady held a roundtable discussion at University Hospital in Newark to discuss maternal and infant health progress in New Jersey and announce the introduction of the bill in the Assembly. The bill unanimously passed both houses on January 8, 2024 before reaching the Governor’s desk.
Under the bill, hospitals and birthing centers must develop and maintain policies that allow doulas to accompany patients before, during, and after labor and childbirth. These facilities will also be required to publicly post their policies and designate a contact to maintain communications between their staff, the doula community, and patients.
“Evidence shows that doulas help reduce birth complications, lower rates of C-sections, improve mental health, and provide overall essential support and advocacy during the birthing process, making them an indispensable part of a mother’s health care team,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Today’s bill, which ensures doulas are afforded the respect they deserve as a critical care team member with access to birthing hospitals and centers, prioritizes the health of New Jersey’s mothers and is another significant step toward our goal of becoming the safest and most equitable state in the nation to deliver and raise a baby. I am incredibly grateful to our many partners who have supported the work of Nurture NJ over the years – none of our accomplishments, including today’s bill signing, would be possible without their collaboration.”
"Doulas play an essential role in a birthing person's care team, providing support that has been demonstrated to reduce maternal mortality disparities," said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston. "Through the Doula Learning Collaborative, we are working to train and increase the workforce of community doulas and community health workers to support families throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I am excited that birthing people will have increasing access to doulas in hospital settings as a result of this legislation."
In the six years since Governor Murphy took office, several steps have been taken to promote doula services and program. Today’s bill signing addresses two key recommendations within the First Lady’s Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan:
- Develop a communications plan to promote the benefits of midwifery and community doula models of care; and
- New Jersey hospitals should institute systemic changes to accommodate doulas and safe birth practices.
Since 2018 through First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiative, Governor Murphy and legislative partners have taken several steps and included millions of dollars of funding towards doula services and programs. The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget included $1 million to implement doula coverage through NJ FamilyCare, which is New Jersey’s Medicaid program. Medicaid officially began to cover doula care in 2021, making New Jersey the third state in the nation to expand this coverage and the first state to require doulas to be community doula trained – ensuring culturally competent care – to qualify for Medicaid reimbursement.
Additionally, the Governor included $15 million in his Fiscal Year 2023 budget to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for perinatal, midwifery, and community doula care. This increase provided community doulas a maximum $1,165 reimbursement for labor support and eight additional perinatal visits, up from $900. The Fiscal Year 2024 budget also included funding to continue the training of community doulas throughout New Jersey. Since 2018, this continued effort of Nurture NJ and the NJ Department of Health has resulted in the training of over 250 new doulas in the heart of communities most impacted by high maternal mortality.
The primary sponsors of this bill are Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. Other prime sponsors of the bill include Senator Nellie Pou as well as Assemblymembers Shavonda Sumter, Annette Quijano, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson Senators. Co-sponsors of the bill include Senator Renee Burgess, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and former Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera. Former Assemblywoman Mila Jasey was also a supporter of the bill before her retirement in December 2023.