Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra is chief program officer at the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis.
With 30 years of experience as a doula, she’s seen where sometimes it is best for a pregnant patient to have someone with them during doctor appointments and other medical procedures.
“Birthing people need to have a designated support person to help them be more comfortable and to have someone to advocate for them in a time when they are extra vulnerable,” she said.
Approved Tuesday across party lines by the House Health Finance and Policy Committee, it would amend the Health Care Bill of Rights by establishing the right for pregnant patients to have a designated support person present during health care services.
The bill was sent to the House Floor.
Richardson stated that patients benefit from having support from those they trust. “I’ve testified many, many times on the fact that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy related cause when we control for all the factors.”
Designated support person, as defined in the bill, means “any person necessary to provide comfort to the patient including but not limited to patient’s spouse, partner, family member or another person related by affinity." Certified doulas or traditional midwives would not count toward the minimum of one allowed support person.
Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch) supports the bill, but she unsuccessfully offered an amendment to remove the word “pregnant” so the bill would be applicable to all patients. It failed along party lines.
Recalling a story about advocating for her sick husband, Rep. Debra Kiel (R-Crookston) said the bill should apply to everyone. “It isn’t that I know all the medical stuff, I know the person,” she said.
“I am not a medical provider, but if there’s a surgery going on or other things, I think that there needs to be a conversation to really understand what the impact that broadening [the bill] would be,” Richardson responded.
Though the amendment failed, Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL-Maple Grove) expressed interest in possibly expanding the bill later, while being mindful that they communicate with experts to make sure the expansion would be appropriate, or if there are circumstances they’d need to exclude.