“Jen Flory, policy advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, thanked Newsom for “recognizing the need for California to face its Black maternal health crisis head-on.” By passing the bill, she said, “our state is making a down payment on the investment needed to correct the disparities Black and Indigenous birthing people have faced for too long.”
For Immediate Release
SB 65 Secures California’s Position as a Leader in the Movement to Improve Pregnancy and Birthing Outcomes
Sacramento—Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 65 (Skinner), The California Momnibus Act, marking a significant victory for maternal and infant health in California. The California Momnibus is an innovative and comprehensive piece of legislation that reimagines perinatal care in order to close the existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity within the state.
The California Momnibus Act sponsors applaud Governor Newsom for taking this pivotal step towards ensuring that birthing people and their families are supported in their birthing experience. A report released earlier this month by the Maternal and Child Health Division of the California Department of Public Health revealed that the pregnancy-related mortality ratio for Black women was four to six times greater than that of other racial and ethnic groups, indicating a widening disparity. Although California has reduced maternal mortality rates over the past 30 years, mortality and morbidity for Black and Indigenous/Native American pregnant people, women, and infants remain markedly higher than the state’s average.
Said Sen. Skinner, who is the principal author of SB 65 and vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus:
“Despite our medical advances, more U.S. babies and mothers die during birth than in all other high-income countries, and these preventable deaths are disproportionately higher for black families. This is unacceptable. I was so honored to Author SB 65, and to work with the Momnibus Coalition. Its passage will help close racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths and save lives.”
Said Nourbese Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness Action Project:
“California has led the charge when it comes to tackling maternal deaths and severe injury due to pregnancy in the country. But we know there is a long way to go, particularly when it comes to tackling the egregious death rates of Black mommas. With this signature, California takes a huge step in reimagining maternal care for our most vulnerable pregnant folk while setting the bar for the rest of the country. We can’t thank the Governor, Sen. Skinner, and her staff enough, as well as the broader legislature for investing in pregnant folks and babies.”
Said Amy Chen, Senior Attorney at the National Health Law Program:
“The California Momnibus tackles head-on some of the most pressing maternal and infant health disparities in our state, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color NHeLP is grateful to have been part of the statewide coalition that came together to push for its passage. We now stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work in partnership with the state agencies and community stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation of all parts of the bill,”
Said Jen Flory, Policy Advocate, Western Center on Law & Poverty:
“We are thankful to the Governor for recognizing the need for California to face its Black maternal health crisis head-on. It’s not enough to identify the deep inequalities that created this crisis. By passing the California Momnibus bill, our state is making a down payment on the investment needed to correct the disparities Black and Indigenous birthing people have faced for too long. We are also thankful to all of the organizations, individuals, and legislative members that have led in this space to reimagine what joyous birth should look like.”
Said Shannon Olivieri Hovis, Director, NARAL Pro-Choice California:
“It has never been more critical for California to improve birth outcomes and close the state’s persistently high racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, especially for Black and Indigenous pregnant people. On behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice California and our 295,000 members, we are thrilled to see Governor Newsom prioritize birth equity today by signing SB 65 into law. Despite attacks on reproductive freedom across the country, California is continuing to lead the nation in maternal health and work toward a future where every body can access the care they need—no matter their income level, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or where they live or work.”
Said Holly Smith, CNM, MPH, FACNM, Health Policy Chair of the California Nurse-Midwives Association:
“The pandemic affected families and birthing people in both predictable and unpredictable ways, and especially laid bare the health care inequities that exist for Black birthing people, indigenous people, and people of color. SB 65 directly addresses these issues in an innovative and multi-faceted way. On behalf of the members of the California Nurse-Midwives Association, we give credit to the selfless co-sponsors and coalition partners who put so much time and effort into this bill, to Senator Skinner and the co-authors who brought SB 65 to life and saw the value each section of the bill brings to improving maternal and infant outcomes, and to Governor Newsom and the First Partner for seeing the need and making this a reality (and a first in the nation!). We are eternally grateful.”
Said Stacey Brayboy, Sr. Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs for the March of Dimes:
“The March of Dimes applauds the adoption of this critical legislation and the full breadth of maternal health reforms California has enacted this year. Sen. Skinner and her colleagues in the legislature have demonstrated vision and leadership by raising up the inequities endured by BIPOC mothers and infants and ensuring the state is taking bold steps to close the gap in outcomes. I want to further thank Governor Newsom for his support of these initiatives and his ongoing commitment to realizing the changes we need to ensure all mothers and babies have a healthy strong start.”
Said Felisa Vallejo, Solis Policy Institute Fellow with Women’s Foundation California:
“Today’s win is about reimagining birthing and pregnancy in California. This bill protects new Black and Indigenous life and honors the ability of all genders to give birth – an investment and recognition that’s necessary across the country. We thank the organizations, individuals, legislators, and Governor Newsom for giving life to birthing and pregnancy health for all Californians.”
Earlier this summer, Gov. Newsom signaled California’s commitment to improving maternal health outcomes by incorporating critical components of the original parts of SB 65 into California’s final budget for 2021-2022. This means: doula services and extended postpartum coverage are included as Medi-Cal benefits; an increase in the CalWORKS supplement for pregnant people; and a guaranteed income pilot that prioritizes pregnant people will soon be a reality for a large swath of Californians. Although maternal health enjoyed significant wins through California’s budget this year, critical steps to achieve equity remain. The sponsors are thrilled that Gov. Newsom continues to see this commitment by signing groundbreaking legislation into law.
Background on SB 65
Through meaningful and responsive interventions, SB 65 addresses the maternal mortality crisis in California and advances equity in birthing outcomes by:
- Codifying and expanding California’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee to investigate maternal mortality and morbidity with a mandate to look specifically at racial and socioeconomic disparities; queer, trans, and gender non-conforming birthing outcomes, and make recommendations for best practices to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity;
- Updating data collection and protocols for counties that participate in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Process;
- Clarifying that pregnant people are exempt from CalWORKS welfare-to-work requirements; and
- Building the midwifery workforce by establishing a fund for midwife training programs that meet the priorities of admitting underrepresented groups and those from underserved communities, or prioritize training and placement of graduates in California’s maternity care deserts.
SB 65 is sponsored by Black Women for Wellness Action Project, The California Nurse Midwives Association, March of Dimes, National Health Law Program, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Women’s Foundation of California Dr. Beatriz María Solís Policy Institute, and supported by over 70 health, rights, and justice organizations across California and the country.
Nourbese Flint, Executive Director at Black Women for Wellness Action Project, and Jen Flory, Policy Advocate at Western Center, penned an op-ed in CalMatters explaining the need for SB 65 to combat California’s rising mortality rate for Black people who give birth.
UPDATE as of Wednesday, 4/28/2021: The California Senate voted to remove SB 65 from the Senate Human Services Committee and send it back to the Senate Rules Committee. On April 28th, the Rules Committee decided to send it to Senate Appropriations; Appropriations has until May 21st to advance the bill to the Senate floor.
We thank Senate Leader Atkins for acting to keep the bill alive, and Senator Skinner for authoring the bill and staying the course to protect birthing people in California. We are deeply thankful to everyone supporting SB 65 – your calls, tweets, and emails make all the difference.
SB 65, California’s Momnibus Bill to address maternal and infant mortality disparities, was held by the State Senate’s Human Services Chair. Before it was held by Senator Hurtado, SB 65 had no registered opposition, and had unanimous support in the Senate Health Committee, with several members asking to join as co-authors. Now the bill is at risk, as it only has until April 28th to be heard in committee before it can move through the legislative process.
As written, SB 65 would provide additional health care via extended Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum people, doula care, investment in the midwife workforce, and cash assistance for people with very low incomes through pregnancy and in the first years of their babies’ lives, all throughout California. These comprehensive services are needed to reduce the disproportionate health disparities that Black and Indigenous birthing people and babies face in California. SB 65 also added important state oversight to the boards investigating maternal and infant death to gain better understanding and make recommendations on how to reduce such disparities.
News that the bill would be held came as supporters and witnesses waited to testify on its behalf before the committee. This happened at the same time that the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin was read. People around the world took the verdict as a sign of hope, that this country’s system of laws and policy may in fact have the ability to uphold the sanctity of Black lives. But for those waiting in vain to testify for SB 65 in California, it did not feel like Black lives were being protected, as politics got in the way of protecting people who face obstacles to healthy birth outcomes in our state — disproportionately Black and Indigenous people.
For many of us working for a more just future for Black lives, it is important that the lives we say matter are meaningful to us more than in just death. Making sure that we are actively working to dismantle systemic barriers, including socio-economic and institutional racism, is an essential part of the work. There is no excuse for SB 65 to be held. The need is obvious, the support is resounding, and Black and Indigenous lives matter. The California Legislature needs to show that they are willing to take action to protect not just Black and Indigenous birthing people, but everyone who will benefit from the passage of this bill, which includes millions of people in California.