'Momnibus': Gov. Newsom signs law providing income, doulas for free for CA mothers

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California "Momnibus" Act into law on Monday, which is an effort to improve infant and maternal health, especially for families of color. 

The act will investigate maternal and infant deaths, bolster research on this phenomenon, provide guaranteed income for new mothers and support coverage for doula services.

"We know the what, we know the why--this is the how," Newsom said of the act during a press conference for the signing.

He emphasized that the guaranteed income for pregnant women is groundbreaking, calling it a "big deal."

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"Gov. Newsom’s signing of SB 65, the California Momnibus Act, represents a significant victory for Black maternal and infant health," said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who authored the legislation. "Despite our medical advances, more babies and mothers die during birth in the U.S. than in all other high-income countries, and these preventable deaths are disproportionately higher for Black families."

Newsom noted the fact that services are available to many women who cannot afford services, irrespective of immigration status. 

While California has among the lowest death rates nationally among pregnant women and new mothers, Black women were six times more likely to die within a year of pregnancy than white women from 2014 to 2016, the most recent time frame for which data is available.

"We as a state have a moral imperative to root out these problems from the ground up," said Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who is married to the governor.

Nourbese Flint, the executive director of Black Women for Wellness Action project, said that the most vulnerable mothers in the state have access to new resources as a result of this act.

Skinner said that Momnibus confronts the glaring fact that Black mothers and their babies have poorer health outcomes due to systemic racism.

"Momnibus requires that we fix this, and we end a glaring racial disparity," Skinner said.

"We are saying loud and clear that the status quo cannot and will not continue," said Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, who co-authored the act.

Sen. Susan Eggman emphasized the novelty of the Medi-Cal doula care, a service which was not previously available.

The law will now require a state committee to collect more details about pregnancy-related deaths, diversify the experts looking at that data and require them to recommend ways to reduce racial gaps. 

The committee must also investigate every maternal death and allow for voluntary interviews of family members to better understand what happened. 

The committee would have to publish its findings and recommendations every three years. It would also look into pregnancy-related deaths among LGBTQ people.

Newsom backed past efforts to improve care for Black pregnant women by requiring implicit bias training for health care workers involved in perinatal care, and he’s made support for women and mothers a priority for his administration.