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Bonta: State hospitals ignoring law aimed at eliminating racial bias in maternity care

Seattle Municipal Archives
Flickr / Creative Commons

Attorney General Rob Bonta and others said during a press conference the training matters, because of the state's persistently high death rates among African American mothers.

Though California is often looked at as a national model for improving maternal outcomes, African American women are still far more likely than others to die during pregnancy. They account for only five percent of pregnancies in the state but make up 21 percent of pregnancy-related deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

State data shows that mortality rate for African American infants is also three times higher than for white infants and nearly one-and-a-half times higher than for Pacific Islander babies, the second-highest mortality rate.

Investigations into the cause of all pregnancy-related deaths by the California Department of Public Health determined that more than half are preventable.

No hospitals were in compliance when the department began its investigation in 2021, and not a single employee had completed training.

Lawmakers passed the California Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act four years ago in an effort to reverse the vast disparities in maternal deaths among African American women, who are three times more likely than any other race to die during or immediately after pregnancy.

The law requires hospitals and other facilities to train perinatal care providers on unconscious bias in medicine and racial disparities in maternal deaths. It took effect in January 2020.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.