Black, Pacific Islander women to get $1,000 a month during pregnancy in San Francisco

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Some expectant Black and Pacific Islander mothers in San Francisco will get $1,000 a month during their pregnancy, officials announced, as the city looks to improve a longstanding racial gap in birthing outcomes.

Mayor London Breed on Monday introduced the Abundant Birth Project, which will give a basic income supplement to 150 Black and Pacific Islander women during pregnancy. They’ll get $1,000 a month through their pregnancy and for the first six months postpartum, “with a goal of eventually providing a supplement for up to two years post-pregnancy,” the mayor announced.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Black women have the highest rate of preterm birth, which is when a baby is born too early — before 37 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preterm babies have higher rates of disability and death.

Black women had a preterm birth rate of 14% in 2018, which is around 50% higher than white women, who had a rate of 9%, according to the CDC.

The infant mortality rate is also highest for Black women at 10.8 deaths for every 1,000 births in 2018, more than double the rate for white women at 4.6, the CDC said. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women had the second-highest infant mortality rate at 9.4 deaths for every 1,000 births.

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander mothers were also more than four times more likely to get no or late prenatal care than white mothers in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In San Francisco, one of the richest cities in the U.S., Black infants died at a rate of 9.6 births out of 1,000 between 2012 and 2014, The Guardian reported, citing the San Francisco Department of Public Health. That’s compared to white babies who died at a rate of 2.1 for every 1,000.

Even though Black people make up 5% of births in San Francisco, 23% of the infant deaths were Black between 2012 and 2014, according to the city’s public health data.

Experts say racial discrimination in delivery rooms and the legacy of racial inequality, including mass incarceration and inequitable neighborhoods, were all contributing factors, according to The Guardian.

“Lifelong experiences of racial discrimination and the policies that created inequitable neighborhoods and socioeconomic conditions are causing the toxic stress that impacts birth and infant health,” Dr. Curtis Chan, medical director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the city’s health department, told the publication.

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