COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Two bills moving through the Ohio Statehouse aim to increase support for pregnant women before and after birth.

“Mothers are dying in our state from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth more than any other state in the nation,” said Representative Andrea White (R-Kettering).

House Bill 7, or the “Strong Foundations Act,” is a priority piece of legislation in the Ohio House. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Representatives White and Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus), would support mothers and babies in their first 1,000 days of life in ways ranging from healthcare to early intervention.

“If we don’t invest now, there won’t be an opportunity to pay later,” White said. “Because we are losing far too many mothers and young infants in our state.”

“We want to provide the best possible start and life for babies, and we want to provide the best possible start for the vital relationship between mother and baby,” Humphrey said.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the state’s infant mortality rate was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020, higher than the national average reported by the CDC of 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

“These are incidents of women dying in childbirth and children dying way too early because they didn’t get the type of care they needed,” Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo said).

Hicks-Hudson is re-introducing the “Doula Bill,” or Senate Bill 93, alongside Senator Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester).

“They’re [doulas], not nurses, they’re not doctors, they’re people who are walking so closely with a mom and that family,” Hicks Hudson said.

S.B. 93 would:

  • Enable doula service providers to become certified with the Ohio Board of Nursing
  • Establish a ‘Doula Advisory Board’ that works collaboratively with the Ohio Board of Nursing to oversee standards of the certification process
  • Authorize Medicaid reimbursement for doula services in Ohio

“The doula services can involve pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, the entire process.” Hicks-Hudson said. “[The services] can be associate with lower rates of cesarian delivery, pre-term infant births and postpartum depression.”

“I believe in common-sense solutions that make Ohio a safe place to live, work and raise a family,” Reynolds said. “And that starts at birth.”

Lawmakers also cite a 2013 study that found women assisted by doulas were four times less likely to give birth to a low weight baby and two times less likely to experience a birth complication both for themselves and their newborn.

“We must do this work so we can put a face on the memories of who we have lost,” Ohio Commission on Minority Health Executive Director Angela Dawson said. “We must do this work because the time is now to stabilize them in such a way that when we stand here in 2030, we can say it is done.”