HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Gov. Ned Lamont proposed new legislation to expand Connecticut’s maternal healthcare access and affordability. The push to expand services is in response to pending requests from several hospitals to close labor and delivery facilities.

During a press conference at the legislative office building in Hartford Monday, concerns were voiced over the state becoming a maternal health desert. State and local leaders discussed Senate Bill 986 and House Bill 6669.

“I want this to be the most family-friendly state in the country,” Lamont said.

One of the main components of SB 986 is the ability for the state to license birthing centers. These facilities provide a non-medical setting for births and can also be a less expensive option.

“COVID-19 just revealed for us the problems in our healthcare system. It revealed the significant burden of cost that our health system has borne, that people in our communities have had, and the disparities that exist,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said.

According to the CDC, Black women experience two to three times higher maternal mortality than white women. This legislation will address racial disparities in the healthcare system by creating a certification pathway for doulas. Doulas are specialists that provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

“There are so many things that we can do in our healthcare system, and I hear all the time women say how they’re afraid, how there’s uncertainty. I hear stories of women who say they haven’t been seen or heard,” Dr. Lucinda Canty, a certified nurse-midwife, said.

These alternative options could result in up to $2,000 in patient cost savings.