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Governor Newsom Signs ‘Momnibus’ Act to Tackle Racial Disparities in Maternal and Infant Health

SB 65, aka the California Momnibus Act, aims to close the existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality rates.

Legislation furthers California’s commitment to reproductive freedom and safety and advances the state’s equity goals by addressing systemic racism. 

SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 65, the California Momnibus Act, designed to improve maternal and infant outcomes – particularly for families of color. Authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) with support from maternal health and racial justice groups across the state, the bill will improve research and data collection on racial and socio-economic factors that contribute to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality in communities of color.

“Every individual deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth, and this bill will help make this a reality for more California families,” said Governor Newsom. “It is unacceptable that the maternal and infant mortality rate among Black and Indigenous communities remains significantly higher than the state average. California is committed to tackling discrimination and disparity whenever and wherever it occurs and with today’s signing, we’re doubling down on our commitment to both reproductive and racial justice.”

Governor Newsom signs Momnibus Act

To close the existing racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality, SB 65 codifies and strengthens the work of the Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee, which will investigate pregnancy-related deaths and make recommendations on best practices to avoid these preventable tragedies; improves data collection in the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review process; creates a fund to support the midwifery workforce, upon appropriation from the Legislature; establishes a stakeholder workgroup to support implementation of the new Medi-Cal doula benefit; and reduces CalWORKs paperwork requirements for pregnant women. Research points to structural racism and other socio-economic factors as playing key roles in causing racial and geographic disparities in birthing outcomes for people of color.

“Gov. Newsom’s signing SB 65, the California Momnibus Act, represents a significant victory for Black maternal and infant health. 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,” said Senator Skinner, who is the principal author of SB 65 and vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. “With the enactment of SB 65, California will help close racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths and save lives.”

SB 65 builds upon the 2021-22 state budget’s investments to tackle racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. They include Medi-Cal coverage for doulas, extending Medi-Cal eligibility for postpartum people, providing easier access to CalWORKs for pregnant people and establishing a guaranteed income pilot program that prioritizes pregnant Californians with low-incomes. In 2019, Governor Newsom signed SB 464 by Senator Holly Mitchell, which also works to reduce the Black maternal mortality rate by requiring all perinatal health care providers to undergo implicit bias training.

SB 65 is sponsored by Black Women for Wellness Action Project, the California Nurse Midwife Association, March of Dimes, NARAL, National Health Law Program, Western Center on Law and Poverty and the Women’s Foundation of California Solis Policy Institute. With this legislation, Governor Newsom is furthering his support for women and people who become pregnant. Last month, Governor Newsom signed AB 1356 and AB 1184 to strengthen access to reproductive health care and safeguard the privacy of patients and providers. He also announced the Administration’s participation in a new advisory group, the California Future on Abortion Council, to advance California’s position as a reproductive freedom state.