California is on its way to being the best state to be pregnant in, and not just because it’s easier to push a stroller across hot pavement than through midwestern snow drifts.
Earlier this year the state announced a plan for six months of paid family leave. Then legislation was introduced that could make day care more affordable thanks to a $25 million investment from the state. But these plans aren’t the only proposed policies that could make California a great state to become a mom.
In a country with the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, The California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act (Senate Bill 464) seeks to make pregnancy and the postpartum period safer for women, especially for black moms, who are nearly four times as likely to die giving birth than white women are.
In California, black women make up 5% of the pregnant population, but 21% of the pregnancy-related deaths.
The bill proposes that all hospitals, birth centers or clinics providing perinatal care should “implement an implicit bias program, as specified, for all health care providers involved in perinatal care of patients within those facilities”.
Basically, perinatal care providers would be trained to recognize and address implicit bias (a tendency to stereotype people) because it is why black mothers frequently report not being heard by their care providers.
It’s a problem that black women across the financial spectrum experience, as evidenced by Serena William’s traumatic birth experience. She famously had to fight to have her concerns heard after giving birth to baby Olympia, and, along with reporting by ProPublica and NPR, brought national attention to how black mothers often have dangerous symptoms downplayed or ignored by hospital staff.
As lawmakers note in Senate Bill 464, “Access to prenatal care, socioeconomic status, and general physical health do not fully explain the disparity seen in Black women’s maternal mortality and morbidity rates. There is a growing body of evidence that Black women are often treated unfairly and unequally in the health care system.”
The Bill, authored with Assembly member Shirley Weber of San Diego, would see health care providers update their implicit bias training every two years. Research has found that such training does lead to individual behavioral and cultural change.
While the rest of the country has seen maternal mortality increase in recent years, California has seen its overall maternal mortality drop by 55% between 2006 to 2013, but black moms are still at an increased risk.
Implicit bias training could make the state of California truly the best state to be pregnant in, regardless of a mother’s race. Hopefully, the rest of the country will follow.