Inspiration, community, and education from Birdsong.

Hey Friend, let's talk about Bill A364B

Recently, I attended an information session held by Ancient Song that was so helpful and informative about the Bill A364B which seeks to certify Doulas by the state of New York and is very concerning to the doula community at large. 

I need to talk to you about this.

 There are many problems with this bill, a big one being that the state will decide if doulas looking to certify “are of good moral character ” - I don’t understand how that would be possible - it personally reminds me of when I took a test in my twenties that asked all kinds of moral questions like “Have you ever stolen staples from an employer?” and I was totally honest and then promptly told I was not moral enough to work at...wait for it...Urban Outfitters, where they sell appropriative hot pink fuzzy buddha statues!

Other problems with this Bill is that they will, of course, charge doulas to even apply to be “state certified.” Name the aspiring doula that needs another fee tacked on to the path to certify. There will also be a required exam (not created by doulas...created by the health commission.) What would those questions even be, I mean, most people don’t understand birth, y’all! I’m imagining questions like:

1. “How can you tell when your clients baby is too big?” 

2. “Who should hold the baby first, the OB or the Nurse?”

3. “Name the ideal birthing position. A. on the back B. on the back with feet up C. All of the above”

What’s more, the only way Doulas will be able to qualify for Medicaid reimbursement (which is a whole other issue facing the Doula community and very much linked to this Bill - please read this to learn more) is if you get this “certification.” Not to mention that the word “certified” is already being used by many other organizations, how confusing would that be for people looking to hire doulas?! How confused are you even, reading this right now?

It’s most concerning because I see the doulas that need the greatest support to enter and stay in this field will be shoved out (i.e. doulas of color, immigrant doulas, black doulas, doulas with mental health needs, doulas with disabilities, trans and lgbtq doulas.) These doulas are THE ONES we need the MOST to address the concerning issues around maternal and infant morbidity in this country and in New York specifically.

It might come up in you to think, “Shouldn’t we just veto this bill?” No. The reason being that even if this bill is vetoed it will come back. The regulation and licensure of doulas in coming down the path no matter what. There are 15 other bills in America currently that have to do with Doula Regulation and Medicaid Reimbursement. The best case is to use this moment of alarm to gather, connect, communicate and ask as a united group for what we need.

So now you are most likely either checked out and not reading anymore or very activated and wondering what to do. 

• If you live in New York a great next step is to use this website to find out who your assembly person is and write to them about amending this bill and allowing the Community Based Doulas of Color Organizations (Ancient Song!) to lead with the language and recommendations for amending. Meeting your assembly person in person is also a great way to connect. Go to their office. Wait to see them. Then introduce yourself and speak. Tell them where you live, what you do, why you matter and then stand up for what you think and believe in. 

• If you don’t live in New York please donate to Ancient Song Doula Services who are leading this mission and providing hundreds of unpaid hours to galvanize this community. They are doing info sessions all over the state and also ones online you can watch. They will be releasing a “tool box” with detailed instruction on community activation and organization as well, so follow them here and here and keep listening and amplifying.

If you are wanting to talk about this or understand it more please reach out. One thing I felt strongly at that meeting last night was my own responsibility to my community, meaning Bushwick and Brooklyn and also this nourishing online community of doulas and parents that I love so much. I am here. If you want to talk, rage or sip tea and create infographics that explain this all better. 

Friends, especially the doulas reading this, it is time to truly Tether Together™ This is the time to work outside of the framework of what Laura and I call “sisterwound.”

This is what we are always ‘preaching’ (I can’t help it - I’m a recovering baptist and still have a little revival in my blood that gets especially potent when I’m ovulating - also I’m the daughter of a magician - no for real - more on that later.) It is time to stop infighting, to stop the horizontal violence between us and tie our boats up to one another as this tide rolls in! WE will never be heard or respected if we can’t come together as a united voice. When the morality of your own community is being called into question, it’s time to stop moralizing and demoralizing each other. Our doula principles of non judgement, seeing the invisible work of others and space holding are the most important and most essential tools we have right now.

If you know a doula or friend that needs to read this or needs support to understand it forward this to them.

Sending love to y’all always!


You favorite amoral doula - Erica

Joe Basile