Sen. Dodd Introduces Maternity Care Proposal
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblymember Autumn Burke, D- Inglewood, today announced legislation to improve access to high-quality maternity care in California. The proposal, sponsored by the California Nurse-Midwives Association and Black Women for Wellness, also would curb disparities in outcomes for black women and infants and counter the obstetrician shortage – projected to be critical in some counties by 2025.
“California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, and no woman in our state should go without top-notch maternity care,” said Sen. Dodd. “By increasing access to nurse-midwives, we can improve outcomes for mothers and babies, especially those in rural or inner-city settings. The disparity in outcomes for women of color is absolutely unacceptable and my bill will help address that disparity.”
“Women in California deserve high quality care and the choices in childbirth that nurse-midwives offer,” said Kathleen Belzer, CNMA president. “It is time to remove unnecessary requirements that simply create barriers. The data is clear that the status quo is not serving the lives of women and infants.”
Senate Bill 1237 would expand access to care by authorizing nurse-midwives to conduct routine services without direct physician supervision, following the lead of 46 other states. California’s current model has not been shown to increase the safety or quality of maternity care. States that allow autonomous practice within a more integrated, collaborative model between physicians and midwives show significantly lower rates of cesarean, preterm birth, low birth-weight infants and neonatal death. Nurse-midwives perform 50,000 births a year in California, and Sen. Dodd’s bill will result in more women gaining access.
Despite significantly reducing the maternal mortality rate in California, experts from the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative report that black women in California still die at a rate that is 3-4 times higher than white women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Furthermore, babies born to black women were more than three times as likely to die of a preterm, birth-related issue as babies born to white women in 2017. National and international organizations including the March of Dimes and the World Health Organization have stated that improved access to midwives is one of the necessary and innovative strategies to reduce and eventually eliminate racial disparities in maternal and infant outcomes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has stated that the obstetric workforce crisis cannot be abated without the help of nurse-midwives in a model of integrated, collaborative care. In 2018, ACOG released a new version of their Joint Statement of Practice Relations which highlighted the critical shortages and misdistribution of maternity care providers, and called for autonomous practice for nurse-midwives under a model of team-based care. SB 1237 is being introduced during the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and on the heels of recent statements by leading patient advocacy organizations, including the March of Dimes, California Health Care Foundation, and the Pacific Business Group on Health, calling for the immediate reduction in regulatory barriers to nurse-midwifery practice and greater investment in California’s nurse-midwifery workforce.
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties. More information on Senator Bill Dodd can be found at www.senate.ca.gov/dodd.