PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee held a ceremonial bill-signing on Wednesday for a new law that makes doula services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance plans.

“I am proud to sign legislation that will improve labor and delivery outcomes, particularly for women of color in Rhode Island,” McKee said. “Doula services have time and again demonstrated their ability to save lives and provide the level of care mothers and their babies need.”

“It probably should have been passed a long time ago,” he continued. “Women of color have been disadvantaged in this place and the data shows it, so I never shy away from facts. And what we are going to see now is progress in terms of the health of our families.”

The ceremony was held at Providence Community Health Center on Prairie Avenue, and McKee was joined by House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, Sen. Ana Quezada and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell.

“It’s unacceptable that women of color and particularly Black women are dying at rates three to four times higher than white women,” Ranglin-Vassell said. “All women deserve a safe and healthy childbirth experience. Doulas are a proven solution, and improving women’s access to them will go a long way toward getting women, particularly women of color, and their babies off to a strong and safe start.”

Ranglin-Vassell added that the legislation is deeply personal to her.

“After my twins were born, I had a severe headache, worst headache of my life,” she recalled. “I remember opening the freezer and putting my head in there. I had a hemorrhage, an aneurysm, so for me to be standing here today to sign this bill into law, this is important for women who will get to live.”

A number of local doulas like Quatia Osorio were also on hand to explain why the new law is so important.

“Black women in the state of Rhode Island are likely to die three to four times greater than our white counterparts,” Osorio said. “Black infant mortality is two to three times greater than their white counterparts, so this is a bill about racial equity, reproductive justice and economic equity in the playing field.”