The potential closure of Burdett Birth Center at Samaritan Hospital has been met with backlash from parents, advocates and lawmakers. Parent company St. Peter's Health Partners says it is due to significant financial and staffing losses from the pandemic.

But the decision will affect maternal care for women and families across the Capital Region.

Doula Altranise Harris has helped 20 Capital Region babies come into the world over the last four years.

"There's so much within the scope of being a doula and that's what I love about the work," the birth doula said. "You know, I'm really able to show up in the way that they the client needs me to show up."

New mom Samantha Iverson knew she wanted to bring Harris along for the ride, but said she faced pushback when she brought up the topic of doulas to her OBGYN.

"She made it seem like clients who brought doulas into labor and delivery they kind of got in the way of things," Iverson said. "They might have been more of a hindrance than a help to the health care team."

So she switched to another provider and decided to give birth at Burdett Birth Center, which welcomes doula care. Doulas like Altranise are among those advocating to keep the St. Peter's facility open.

The birth center is considered by many to be the only local choice for a full scope of options in maternal care.

According to Every Mother Counts, doula care improves childbirth outcomes for both mothers and babies, increases care quality and can help with overall costs associated with birth. Benefits, they say, that can help close the gap in racial disparities in maternal care.

New York State's 2018 Report on Pregnancy showed pregnancy-related mortality is five times higher for Black women.

"We need practices and places who value-doers because that paves the way for access for everyone," Harris said.

Iverson said she's fortunate that her family was able to afford a doula, because she knows so many cannot. She worries the closure of the birth center could further limit the option.

"After giving birth, I knew instantly how upsetting it would be to have to give birth somewhere else," Iverson said. "Not that any other providers in the area wouldn't do a good job, but I just knew that my experience at Burdett was everything I wanted it to be."