San Francisco Mayor London Breed introduced legislation on Monday that will supplement the income of Black and Pacific Islander expectant mothers for each month of their pregnancy as the city looks to improve racial gaps in maternal care.
In partnership with Expecting Justice, Breed announced the Abundant Birth Project which will support approximately 150 expectant mothers of color with a supplemental income of $1,000 each month of their pregnancy and six months postpartum, according to a statement released by her office.
“The Abundant Birth Project is rooted in racial justice and recognizes that Black and Pacific Islander mothers suffer disparate health impacts, in part because of the persistent wealth and income gap.” Breed said.
The project is fully funded by a public-private partnership designed in adherence to a collaborative change model that works to incorporate people most affected in the decision-making process. As a part of the collaboration, Black and Pacific Islander mothers were recruited and trained as community researchers to help obtain “on-the-ground” data about the present needs of their peers.
According to the release, the project entered its design phase after being named a Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative grant winner. The Abundant Birth Project has since gone on to win an award of $1.1 million from Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall campaign, and $200,000 from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“San Francisco has seen lasting health disparities in the Black and Pacific Islander communities, which we cannot allow to continue,” Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said. “The Abundant Birth Project addresses those disparities in a positive and active way, to directly benefit expecting mothers and their babies in those communities.”
The initiative will work also with local prenatal care providers and city-based pregnancy support centers to identify and engage eligible clients over the next two years, the release stated. The project will focus on “low-income and middle-income pregnant people” given the high cost of living in San Francisco and financial hardships due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Providing guaranteed income support to mothers during pregnancy is an innovative and equitable approach that will ease some of the financial stress that all too often keeps women from being able to put their health first,” Breed said.
According to the CDC, Black women have the highest rate of preterm birth. In 2018, Black women had a preterm birth rate nearly 50% higher than white women.
The infant mortality rate in the Black community, 10.8 deaths for every 1,000 births in 2018, is more than double the rate for white Americans, the CDC reported. Pacific Islander had the second-highest infant mortality rate at 9.4 deaths for every 1,000 births.
Although Black mothers accounted for 5% of the births in San Francisco, Black infant deaths made up 23% of the city's total infant deaths between 2012 and 2014, according to the San Francisco's public health data.
Medical officials have named racial discrimination in delivery rooms and systems of oppression like mass incarceration and the toxic stress levels of women of color as contributing factors, according to The Guardian.
In March, U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, Lauren Underwood, Alma Adams and Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill named the “Momnibus” that included a number of provisions to Congress’ response to the Black maternal health crisis. These provisions include investing in social determinants of health, growing the perinatal health workforce and promoting innovative pay models.
“The bottom line is that in this nation of so much wealth and prosperity, there is no reason that African American women should be dying at rates three times that of white women in pregnancy and childbirth,” Sewell said