Maternal Health Bill Of Rights Introduced For New Council Term

March 10th, 2022

Press Release

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams today re-introduced two bills aimed at combating the maternal mortality crisis in New York City and supporting maternal health and wellness. The legislation, which is particularly focused on reducing Black maternal mortality and deep disparities in maternal health, includes measures for both during and post-pregnancy. The bills were originally introduced in 2021, and can now be considered, heard, and voted on by the current City Council. Together, they are a model for the ways in which local legislatures can address maternal health inequities and injustices.

“Birth equity is a social justice issue – one too often ignored, facing people too often unheard. It’s one that is personal to so many New Yorkers – I never knew how personal it would be for me and my family,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “Creating a maternal health bill of rights with dedicated and sustained outreach to inform people of those rights, we can help ensure that rights are respected, requests heard, and resources granted. When someone is ready to return to work, we need to make that pathway clear and minimize barriers to reentry. These bills are common sense, their impact could be lifesaving, and we need to pass them this year."

Last month, after a long fertility struggle, a difficult pregnancy, and premature delivery, the Public Advocate and his wife welcomed their newborn daughter, Amani Elisadora. They have shared their story publicly in recent weeks and months in the hopes that it helps other New Yorkers feel supported, heard, and receive the care they need.

The Public Advocate’s office has long been engaged in efforts to combat maternal health inequity. His office released a report on the issue last year, entitled Equitable Pregnancy Outcomes for Black and Brown New Yorkers, which analyzes systemic issues and outlines potential policy solutions.

In New York City, Black women are 8 to 12 times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. This is often rooted in medical personnel overlooking, minimizing, or dismissing the health concerns of Black patients. The first of the two bills, Intro. 86, establishes a maternal health bill of rights, and provides that pregnant individuals are informed of those rights through a public education campaign. Information is essential to body autonomy and empowering people to seek the care they deserve, and being informed of one's rights gives power to pregnant individuals as patients and as employees.

The second, Intro. 84, is aimed at addressing inequities and issues that primarily arise post-pregnancy during re-entry into the workplace. It would require employers, under guidance from the NYC Commission on Human Rights, to hold an onboarding meeting to discuss an employee's reintegration back into the workplace after parental leave. Employees returning from parental or medical leave often struggle during their return to work, lacking critical information about changes to the workplace or projects that have occurred while they were away. This bill would help correct that information gap.

Maternal health is an issue of racial inequity. Action on these issues is decades overdue, and while the current administration has taken some steps to address this inequity, maternal mortality and morbidity remains a problem – especially for Black women and pregnant persons.

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