Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

Subscribe

* indicates required

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday intended to help reduce the state’s maternal and infant mortality rates, especially among Black families and people of color.

Senate Bill 65, known as the Momnibus Act, requires the state’s Department of Public Health to track and analyze maternal and infant deaths in an effort to improve the state’s collection of data on factors that contribute to maternal and infant deaths and other poor health outcomes.

While the state’s infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, figures for Black and Native American infants are higher than the state’s average while the death rate for Black pregnant and postpartum residents are also higher than the state’s average, according to data from the state’s Health and Human Services Agency.

“The issues have become more pronounced in terms of our focus but the outcomes have gotten worse, and that’s something we have to reconcile.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom

“While we want to improve health outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, eliminate all infant and maternal mortality, we need to accept that there is a glaring racial disparity, and Momnibus addresses that,” SB 65 author Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said Monday in a virtual bill signing ceremony.

Newsom acknowledged that the state’s maternal and infant mortality disparities have not improved even as death rates have declined in the aggregate.

“The issues have gotten only worse,” he said. “The issues have become more pronounced in terms of our focus but the outcomes have gotten worse, and that’s something we have to reconcile.”

The Momnibus Act also made permanent some facets of the state’s 2021-22 budget, including expanded eligibility for CalWORKs grants to pregnant people, adding doula care as an eligible Medi-Cal service, extending Medi-Cal to parents 12 months after birth and prioritizing pregnant people for the state’s universal basic income pilot project.

Skinner developed the bill in partnership with more than 50 organizations that advocate for parents and women of color, including the Black Women for Wellness Action Project, the California Nurse Midwives Association and NARAL Pro-Choice California.

The Momnibus Act is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022, according to Skinner.