New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed offering pregnant women 40 hours of paid leave to attend prenatal medical appointments.
In her 2024 State of the State, Hochul revealed a comprehensive six-point plan to combat maternal and infant mortality in New York, as the recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the increase in deaths for the first time in two decades.
“Make no mistake: we are facing a maternal and infant mortality crisis,” she said in a statement. “As New York’s first mom governor, this is personal to me. We are committed to tackling this crisis head-on with policies that lift up parents and children throughout the State of New York.”
Hochul proposes to expand the state’s Paid Family Leave policy (PFL) by including 40 hours of paid leave to attend prenatal medical appointments.
Studies show that pregnant women who have access to regular prenatal medical visits are less likely to die in childbirth, while their newborns are more likely to be healthy.
If accepted, the proposal would make New York the first state in the country to establish statewide coverage for prenatal care.
Under New York’s current paid family leave law, benefits are unavailable until four weeks before the child’s birth.
Hochul’s six-point plan includes expanding benefits to improve access to doula services and eliminating co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for pregnancy-related benefits for those enrolled in the Essential Plan or Qualified Health Plans.
Moreover, it would introduce new oversight mechanisms to avoid unnecessary C-sections, making providers who overutilize them accountable.
The governor’s proposal includes improving mental health services for mothers by training counselors answering the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on maternal issues.
Infant and maternal mortality is rising
Infant mortality rates in the U.S. rose in 2022 by 3% from 2021, the first annual increase in the last two decades, especially among infants born to American Indian, Alaska Native, and White women.
In 2022, the infant mortality rate was 5.60 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, higher than in other high-income countries.
Maternal mortality rates are also on the rise, with 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021, compared with a rate of 23.8 in 2020 and 20.1 in 2019. Among Black women, the rate is 2.6 times more than among White.
More mothers are dying in the U.S. than in any other high-income country. For instance, the rate is 8.4 in Canada, 6.5 in the United Kingdom, and 1.2 in the Netherlands, all of which have extensive paid prenatal and maternity leave.
- New York State. Governor Hochul Unveils Third Proposal of 2024 State of the State: Taking on the Maternal and Infant Mortality Crisis.
- Central Intelligence Agency. Infant mortality rate.
- CDC. Maternal Mortality Rates in the United States, 2021.
- Commonwealth Fund. The U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis Continues to Worsen: An International Comparison.