DeBolt’s bill giving volunteer midwives and doulas access to pregnant inmates approved by House

The state House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would allow volunteer midwives and doulas to provide assistance to incarcerated pregnant inmates in county jails and state prisons.

Substitute House Bill 2016, introduced by 20th District Rep. Richard DeBolt, would provide inmates access to these volunteer maternity services before, during and after childbirth.

“These circumstances for giving birth are not normal. Most incarcerated mothers are separated from their newborn within days,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “They need someone to be with them during the birth and in the weeks after being separated from their baby.”

Doulas are trained to provide physical and informational support to women throughout pregnancy, delivery and after childbirth. Midwives have additional medical training, and can perform regular exams throughout the course of a woman’s pregnancy and after childbirth.

“Along with the obvious physical aspects of giving birth, midwives and doulas can help women through postpartum depression,” said DeBolt. “Those symptoms are magnified and often debilitating because the mother is separated from her child. The goal of these volunteer services is simple: doulas and midwives make these very difficult circumstances a bit easier to bear.”

DeBolt’s proposal requires reasonable accommodations be made for volunteers to meet with, and care for expectant mothers, and mothers who are up to six weeks postpartum. In addition, volunteer midwives and doulas would be granted access to the inmates’ relevant health care information.

In addition to their other roles, midwives and doulas also offer parental advice and instruction to new mothers on how to care for their infants.

“If you teach a woman how to be a good mother, you give her skills for every area of life,” continued DeBolt. “This one-on-one time provides incarcerated mothers with the encouragement that they can be a good parent to their infant after they’re released from jail or prison. It gives them hope.”

DeBolt’s bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.


Washington State House Republican Communications