AUSTIN (KXAN) — In order to better advocate and regulate professional birth companions, or doulas, in Texas, several doula groups in the state formed the Texas Doula Association (TDA), announcing it in a press release on April 19.

“We couldn’t be more excited to start this new chapter in doula advocacy in Texas. We believe that doulas can and will create happier, healthier pregnancy, birth, and parenting experiences for Texans,” said TDA President Qiana Arnold in the release.

The organization’s scope covers “all types of doulas” from “full-spectrum” doulas, who focus on the reproductive process, and end-of-life doulas, who focus on death.

According to the group’s website, it is focused on establishing a high standard of care, reducing barriers to entering the profession and better integration with Medicaid. The organization is already working with Texas lawmakers on bills to advance these goals.

TDA Secretary Quanisha McGruder said that the organization came together quickly earlier this year because of one such bill, HB 3394, which allows Medicaid to reimburse Texas doulas for their services.

“When doulas saw, we acted,” Quanisha McGruder said. “It was less of a ‘let’s chit chat and talk about how to plan this,’ it was like ‘we need to work, we need to do.'”

The founding organizations, McGruder said, felt that if they did not step up to advocate for doulas, then they might have ended up under some other organization’s purview. Through TDA, doulas can advocate for their profession.

“We want to provide spaces for doulas to just tell us what they need and actually be heard,” McGruder said. “Because we don’t get asked and then things happen around us, for us, which is great because they’re thinking about us, but it’s not what we actually want. We are asking what we want.”

Another major concern for TDA is the Black maternal mortality rate in Texas. Recent data suggests significantly higher rates of pregnancy and birth complications compared to white mothers.

“We’ve been working a lot of pro bono work where we just need to see them survive,” McGruder said. “We see a lot of movement backward, and we’re trying to stop it — whatever power we have to make sure that this does not continue because we should not be dying. It’s 2023. I feel like we should be past that. But it’s still happening.”