Speaker Carl Heastie announced today that the Assembly will begin passing a package of legislation to strengthen reproductive health services and tackle the maternal and infant mortality rise across the state.
This package joins a series of legislation passed over the years to ensure New York remains a sanctuary for reproductive healthcare. Last year, the Assembly passed the Equal Rights Amendment for a second time, giving New Yorkers the opportunity to vote this November on whether access to reproductive care should be enshrined in the state constitution. The Assembly also provided legal protections to healthcare practitioners providing reproductive health care, including through telehealth. Furthermore, the Assembly passed a collection of bills increasing access to contraceptives across the state and expanding access to contraceptives and abortion medication to students at state colleges and universities.
“On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we understand the continued threat women face when looking for reproductive healthcare. While we work to strengthen those protections, we must also work to protect mothers and babies from the concerning trend of maternal and infant mortality facing our state,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “This legislative package is an important step in ensuring that our mothers and babies have access to the services and care they need, while working to reduce existing healthcare disparities across our communities.”
The package includes a bill (A.2870-B, Solages) to develop new standards for maternal depression screenings, diagnosis and treatment protocols. Statistics show around 15 to 20 percent of mothers will experience a form of pregnancy related depression or anxiety, but many women report a lack of adequate information or screening after birth.
Also included are two bills that would increase access to doula care both during a cesarean section for patients without support (A.7606, Solages) and within hospitals and maternal health care facilities more generally (A.6168-A, Solages). Doulas are non-medical professionals who provide emotional and physical support to women during and after birth. Several studies have shown that access to doulas during and after labor better maternal and infant outcomes by reducing cesarean sections, postpartum depression and birth complications. With Black and Native American women three times more likely to die from birth-related complications, research indicates that doula access reduces healthcare disparities between racial groups.
“The research continues to point to the critical role culturally competent doulas and post-partum screenings play in our efforts to reduce maternal mortality,” said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages. “These bills will provide the much-needed emotional, spiritual and physical support our mothers need, while working to close the devastating maternal mortality disparity facing our communities of color.”
This package also contains a bill to limit medically unnecessary cesarean sections by asking healthcare professionals to provide written documentation on why a cesarean section is medically necessary (A.4927-A, Paulin). Furthermore, the bill asks healthcare professionals to inform patients and their families requesting medically unnecessary cesarean sections with the risks associated with the procedure. Current research shows that women undergoing cesarean sections are more likely to have increased postpartum risks and in-hospital mortality than women who deliver vaginally.
“In our fight to reduce maternal mortality numbers, we’re concerned with the sharp rise in medically unnecessary cesarean sections,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “This bill will ensure that women and doctors are on the same page regarding how serious this medical procedure is and will put our best foot forward in making sure our mothers and infants are ready to begin their new life together.”
Additionally, this package includes a bill requiring the Department of Health to form a maternal care and birthing standards working group to further evaluate maternal health standards and make recommendations on future steps needed for better treatment (A.8207-A, Clark).
“In todays world, there should be no reason a mother or baby dies due to inadequate care standards, said Assemblywoman Sarah Clark. “And as a mom of three whose experienced my own hardships during childbirth, improving our knowledge around, and access to the best quality of maternal health care for all mothers is of the utmost importance to me. Our working group will allow for constant monitoring of this devastating crisis as we work to bring new solutions to this problem.”
This legislative package includes an increase in hospital transparency by requiring the commissioner of health to collect information from hospitals on care options and policy-based exclusions to care (A.733-A, Rozic). Currently, hospitals are not required to provide reasons behind a patient’s policy-based denial of treatment, thus allowing bureaucratic decisions to overrule medical-based care. This bill will allow patients access to all their care options, including certain treatments denied by hospital policy, before seeking admission. It will also provide new data regarding healthcare deserts across local communities.
“Countless patients have been denied miscarriage treatment, tubal ligation, infertility services or other reproductive care not because of medical advice, but because of arbitrary hospital policies created without patient care in mind,” said Assemblymember Nily Rozic, “This bill will put the power back into the hands of patients and ensure all New Yorkers have access to much needed healthcare treatments and know which hospitals provide the treatment they might need.”
Additionally, this package provides new provisions to insurance law to allow pregnant women to enroll in health insurance without penalties (A.2656, Walker) and allow for coverage of prenatal vitamins when prescribed by a health care provider (A.3865, Gunther).
“Infant mortality rates in America rose about three percent from 2021 to 2022, the first annual increase in 20 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent data show an even more startling increase in maternal mortality rates, especially among Black women. I have been shouting from the mountain tops for years about the need to improve maternal health outcomes in New York State,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker. “To that end, I am the proud sponsor of A.2656 which will allow pregnant women to enroll in the state’s health exchange at any time without penalty or cost. Pregnancy is a time for joy and optimism, not for anxiety over access to healthcare.”“A mother’s economic situation should not bar her from accessing the care she needs throughout her pregnancy,” said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther. “By increasing prenatal vitamin access across the state we’re giving all women access to healthier pregnancies and healthier babies.”