CA lawmakers, hospitals step up efforts to protect lives of Black women during childbirth

Anabel Munoz Image
Monday, October 30, 2023
CA authorities push to protect health of Black women during pregnancy
Black women experience the highest rates of maternal mortality and California lawmakers are looking to make sure new laws are enforced to protect their lives.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- California lawmakers and health advocates have made efforts to tackle the reality that Black women experience the highest maternal mortality rate.

"I stood alongside a coalition of advocates, medical professionals, and Black women who had been working for years to get meaningful legislation passed to save lives," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

In 2019, Mitchell, then a state senator, authored a California law that requires all perinatal health care providers undergo anti-implicit-bias training. It went into effect in 2020.

"Unfortunately, we've learned that there's some work to do to ensure compliance," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

The California Department of Justice conducted a survey of 242 hospitals. It first found that in August 2021, less than 17% had begun training and by July of 2022, 81% completed the required training.

"This report represents more than just data. It is a testament to our collective dedication to challenging bias and prejudice," said Gabrielle Brown, a program coordinator for the Maternal and Infant Health program at Black Women for Wellness, lead sponsor of the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act (SB 464.)

"This is why we have such devastating outcomes for Black birthing mothers when compared to their white counterparts," said state Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist.

"In the hospital I have witnessed how implicit bias alters how one patient is treated differently than the other and the only significant difference between those patients is the color of their skin," Weber added.

Bonta said he is working with the state Legislature to ensure compliance, including establishing firm deadlines and clear enforcement mechanisms.

"We need consequences for non-compliant hospitals and facilities," Bonta said.

"It is the beginning but not the finale. It is the bare minimum of what health care providers and facilities must do to address implicit bias," Weber said.