Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle & Pintor Marin Bill Ensuring Expectant Mothers Are Allowed a Support Person During Labor Clears Full Assembly

Bill Comes After Attempts to Bar Birthing Partners from the Delivery Room

To give all expectant mothers what they need for the best labor and delivery outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Eliana Pintor Marin sponsor legislation requiring acute care hospitals to permit one support person, such as a spouse, partner, or doula, to accompany a woman into the delivery room during childbirth.

Passed by the full Assembly 79-0-0 on Thursday, the bill (A-3942) was introduced after some New Jersey hospitals made the difficult decision to prohibit a partner or support person from entering the delivery room due to coronavirus concerns.

“No woman should be forced to deliver alone,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Research shows women with social support during childbirth tend to have shorter duration of labor, control their pain better, and have a reduced need for medical intervention. In addition to providing physical and emotional comfort during and after labor, support persons also reduce maternal mortality rates and alleviate the burden on hospitals by alerting staff when the patient is unable to do so. Policy should follow the science.”

Research from both the World Health Organization and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support conclusions that continuous support during labor and postpartum provides benefits for women and babies. Positive outcomes cited include without limitation lower chance of needing a C-section, increased satisfaction with their experience, and reduced duration of labor.

In early March, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) took action on the issue in a letter to all acute care hospitals. DOH has deemed one support person essential to patient care throughout labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period contingent upon the accompanying individual being asymptomatic and screened for COVID-19 as well as able to wear personal protective equipment.

“The coronavirus is causing mothers to face new and unprecedented anxieties about their pregnancy, taking a huge toll on mental and emotional well-being,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By securing the right to a support person during labor, we can make the reality of delivering during a pandemic less daunting and all-around improve post-partum outcomes.”

“The healthcare industry has had to make some of the toughest decisions during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “However, the potentially life-saving role of support persons during delivery, especially for women with pre-existing conditions like epilepsy, cannot be overstated. Codifying the right to have such an individual present is necessary for positive maternal health outcomes and could alleviate medical strains on hospitals.”

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health would need to adopt rules and regulations to effectuate its provisions giving guidance on restrictions an acute care general hospital may place on individuals accompanying pregnant women.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.