Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a law aimed at improving maternal and postpartum care for Black California families who have disproportionately suffered pregnancy-related and infant deaths in recent years. Senate Bill 65, dubbed the “Momnibus Act” and authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, aims to close those racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths. The law would establish a committee to investigate pregnancy-related deaths and severe maternal morbidity and expands data collection and research into the social factors that cause negative birth outcomes. The bill also increases access to postpartum health care, doula services and midwives for families.
The bill also charges the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to provide training for nurse-midwives on working with multicultural communities. Between 2014-2016, Black women in California were four to six times more likely to experience pregnancy-related mortality compared to women who were white, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, according to a report from the California Department of Health released last month.
The mortality ratio for Black women was 56.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. For white women the mortality ratio was 9.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the health department. “California’s rate of pregnancy-related deaths has remained low compared with the U.S. rate and has been largely stable from 2008 to 2016,” according to the report. “However, racial/ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related mortality ratios appear to be worsening, particularly among Black women when compared to women of other racial/ethnic groups. Black women were overrepresented among pregnancy-related deaths from all causes, especially deaths that occurred in pregnancy prior to birth or after delivery hospitalization.”