doula- Daniel Tchetchik
Women during childbirth-preparation class. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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Government prosecutors announced to the police on Thursday that they have no intention of submitting criminal charges against Michael Hoffman, the male childbirth instructor that was suspected of raping and sexually assaulting several pregnant women in his care.

Israel police released Hoffman on Wednesday, even before government prosecutors announced their final decision. Hoffman had been held since December after it was discovered that several complaints had been made against him in an online forum for pregnant women, claiming that he committed inappropriate acts with them.

Hoffman's lawyer has claimed that he could not have strayed from acceptable standards of behavior for doulas because no such professional standards exist for the birthing assistants whose task it is to make the childbirth experience easier for pregnant women.

The police realized that the case was problematic when they received evidence of the same acts that Hoffman is being accused of, being perpetrated by other doulas who are women.

Hoffman, a 43-year-old lawyer, was released under the condition that he not work as a doula for 30 days, and that he not make contact with the women who accused him of improper behavior.

Doula schools operating in Israel are under no supervision, with training usually lasting between six months and a year of once-weekly classes. Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv is the only hospital that opposes doulas in the labor room outright, although most hospitals do not support the practice.

Male doulas are rare. Gila Ronel, a doula and director of the Dyada parenting center says she has taught 500 doulas over 14 years, five of whom are male; two of them are working in the field.

Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel said she told deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman that she would be initiating legislation to regulate the profession if the matter is not dealt with immediately. "It is inconceivable that such a sensitive issue should be completely unregulated and anyone can do it," Gamliel said.