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SCOTUS begins issuing new opinions, with another expected related to the power of federal agencies, the battleground state of Wisconsin gets a ruling on alternative voting sites, and coastal work is being done to help salt marshes withstand hurricanes.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

“Death Doulas” Fight for Right to Serve Families

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A case which could put so-called "death doulas" out of business gets a hearing this week before a federal judge in Sacramento.

Death doulas support families emotionally through the process of losing a loved one, educate people on their options and sometimes wash and dress the body and assist with home funerals or green burials. The state wants to require them to get a funeral director's license.

Jess Pezley, staff attorney for the nonprofit Compassion and Choices, which has filed an amicus brief to join the case, said the license would require doulas to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a funeral home equipped to embalm and store bodies.

"They don't embalm. They aren't transporting the body. They aren't offering crematorium services," Pezley outlined. "And they're not doing anything that would put themselves or others at risk of blood-borne viruses, things like that."

Two years ago, the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau ordered the doulas at Full Circle of Living and Dying in Nevada County to become licensed funeral directors or cease operations. The doulas sued, and a preliminary injunction allowed them to stay in business. The bureau declined to comment.

Pezley noted the state's order was spurred by an anonymous complaint.

"It would make sense that it was somebody in the conventional funeral industry who has this vested financial interest in dissuading people from home burials or green burials," Pezley contended.

Meagan Williams, a death doula and senior media associate with Compassion and Choices, said if the doulas are required to become funeral directors, it would effectively shut down the field and deny families an important option.

"Doulas can bring comfort and peace," Williams stated. "Knowing that they're not alone, knowing that there's somebody who is educated who understands the process, understands what's coming up ahead of them, and can help them plan."

This week both sides are asking for a summary judgment, and a decision is expected early next year.

Disclosure: Compassion and Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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