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Are Doula Bans Legal?

Yesterday we talked about what a doula is.  And many of you commenting loved having one.  Now, imagine if you’re told that you can’t have a doula.  It’s against your doctor or hospital’s policy.

Never mind that doulas have been shown to increase positive outcomes for moms and babies.  No, it’s against the rules to have.  Is this even legal?  What do you do if it happens to you?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a fairy tale.  There are doula bans in place in some areas right now, including with certain practices where I live.  Now, I’m in a large enough area that I have plenty of other options, so if I’d ever been with a practice that forbade doulas (I haven’t been, personally), I’d just leave and find someone else.  But what happens if you’re in an area where you don’t have a lot of options?

Banning Doulas

According to the practices I’ve run across, they have created this ban because they felt that doulas were “overstepping their boundaries” and were therefore a distraction in the delivery room.  I can understand that there may have been one or two who really did overstep some boundaries (I was even told in a private meeting this did occur).  But shouldn’t the solution therefore be to ban those doulas, not all doulas?  But that is not what this practice decided.

Technically, though it’s not “fair,” it’s well within any doctor or practice’s right to ban doulas.  They are in private practice, you’ve hired them, so you’ve agreed to follow their “rules.”  If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to change doctors.  And if you have other options, great!  If not…not so great.

The flip side is, shouldn’t any woman be able to have anyone she wants at her birth?  Who is any doctor or hospital to say that a woman cannot have any particular person (who is not causing trouble or breaking rules, obviously)?

A hospital probably cannot legally forbid a doula, due to patient’s rights.  A patient has the right to a support person or people of his/her choosing, and separating him/her from the support people is a violation of rights.  They’ll give you a paper that says as much, though they may or may not stick to it.

As it stands, there is really no precedent for either allowing or banning doulas.  Patients need to stick up for their own rights to have whoever they want as support people, and change OB practices if a “doula ban” is handed down.  Patients who want one, should be allowed to have one.

What do you think?  Are doula bans legal, or ethical?  Have you run into one?

Top image by TheLawleys

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