REPORT: CA Attorney General, California Legislative Black Caucus Introduce Legislation to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality through Implicit Bias Training

By Sarah Chayet and Joey Lo

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Dept. of Justice, CA Attorney General Rob Bonta, Assemblymembers Lori Wilson, Dr. Akilah Weber and members of the California Legislative Black Caucus introduced Assembly Bill 2319 Monday, which addresses Black maternal mortality and health care disparities. 

AB 2319’s intended purpose, as outlined in the DOJ report, is to make sure that Senate Bill 464 (SB 464), the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act of 2019, is effectively implemented by requiring anti-bias training to health care providers to address the disparities Black women and birthing people of color face when receiving health care. 

“It is a tragic reality that race continues to be a factor in maternal health and infant mortality rates not just in California, but across this country…(this bill) is designed to make transformational change in a system that has historically failed our mothers and babies, especially those of color,” said AG Bonta.

While DOJ states SB 464 laid important groundwork for health care provider anti-bias training and requirements, an investigation facilitated by the DOJ revealed it was taking longer than expected for health care providers to complete this training and fully comply with SB 464’s mandate. 

After DOJ’s investigation, “providers’ rate of compliance improved dramatically from below 17 percent to over 81 percent,” said DOJ, noting the need for more action to be taken to ensure facilities continue to be held accountable and meet SB 464’s requirements. 

“California is failing its Black mothers. We have an obligation and moral duty to correct this grave injustice in California’s maternal healthcare. We owe it to our Black mothers to rectify the injustice causing alarming pregnancy-related deaths,” said Assemblymember Dr. Corey A. Jackson (D-Riverside). 

According to DOJ’s report, “Black women make up five percent of those pregnant but account for 21 percent of the total pregnancy-related deaths.” 

DOJ attributes this heightened mortality rate to both conscious and unconscious biases entrenched in the healthcare system and its providers that negatively affect how Black women and birthing people of color are diagnosed, treated, and cared for.

“The Black maternal morbidity and mortality rate cannot be explained by income or education levels alone. Providers ignore symptoms, ignore concerns to the horrible detriment of birthing women. So, sadly when uninformed care doesn’t result in death, it can still result in traumatic birthing experiences for both mother and child,” said Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland).

“Black women in California face alarming disparities in maternal health outcomes. As a Black Mother and as Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, the fight to improve these outcomes is personal to me,” said Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Oakland).

Additionally, biases in medical settings “can undermine patients’ trust and engagement in care,” DOJ’s report stated.

“California is a national leader when it comes to reproductive freedom, and we pride ourselves on having the lowest maternal mortality rate of any state in the country—but we still have tremendous work to do to ensure that all Black women and pregnant people in our state have access to quality, equitable, and unbiased care,” said Shannon Olivieri Hovis, Director at Reproductive Freedom for All California.

As a result of DOJ’s investigation, AB 2319 aims to ameliorate some of the shortcomings seen in SB 464’s initial implementation by clarifying what parties should receive the training, establishing deadlines and penalties, publicizing the facilities’ compliance statuses, and adding language to include nonbinary people and transgender men.

DOJ’s findings revealed that enacting “SB 464 was only the first step to ensuring the training of maternal care providers…Additional steps need to be taken to ensure hospitals and facilities comply with those requirements.” 

“It is imperative that we redouble our efforts to uphold the principles of dignity and equity in pregnancy and childbirth. Together we can eradicate disparities in maternal care and promote equitable access to quality healthcare for all Californians,” said Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson).

About The Author

I'm a recent California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo grad. I majored in English and received a minor in Studio Art. In the fall, I plans to go back to school for a master's degree in English Literature. Currently, I am a transcript editor for CalMatters, and I hope to enter the field of technical writing someday. In my freetime, I love to draw, go on roadtrips, and camp

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