San Francisco recently announced a new project aiming to help provide a basic income to a select group of pregnant women of color living in the city. Known as the Abundant Birth Project, organizers claim it is the first program of its kind in the United States.
The Abundant Birth Project will provide an unconditional income to 150 Black and Pacific Islander women throughout their pregnancies and for the first six months of their babies’ lives, according to the official press release, with a goal of providing a financial supplement for up to two years post-pregnancy. The results of this pilot program will be studied by collective impact initiative Expecting Justice, led by Dr. Zea Malawa at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
“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,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed 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.”
In a recent tweet, Breed said this could be a model for future programs to address social, economic and racial disparities in the city.
If this pilot is successful it can serve as a model for future programs.
Because we have to continue addressing the unacceptable disparities in our city relating to everything from public health, to education, to financial security that have continued on for way too long.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 14, 2020
Project coordinators cited statistics showing the median annual household income for Black and Pacific Islander families in San Francisco is close to $30,000 and $67,000 respectively, compared with over $104,000 citywide.
Expecting Justice says that Black infants are twice as likely to be born premature compared to white infants. And when babies are born before the 37-week mark, low birth weight, infant mortality and maternal death are more likely to occur. Black women’s pregnancies account for about half of the maternal deaths and more than 15% of infant deaths even though they only represent about 4% of total births.
The organization also says that 23% of San Francisco’s Black women were homeless or had no place to sleep during their pregnancies, while about 28% percent experienced a health provider turning down their insurance or not accepting them as a patient. Chronic stress caused by systemic racism, Expecting Justice notes, is considered a major factor in their rates of pre-term birth.
Their results are confirmed by research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who found in 2019 that Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women were all two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The disparity increases with age and exists even in places where the pregnancy-related mortality ratio is low and the women involved are highly educated.
The Abundant Birth Project hopes by providing reliable financial support for these women, they will be able to receive quality prenatal care which will lead to healthy babies. The project will work with local prenatal care providers and San Francisco’s network of pregnancy support services to enroll low-income and middle-income people with the financial supplement.
“San Francisco has seen lasting health disparities in the Black and Pacific Islander communities, which we cannot allow to continue,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in the mayor’s release. “The Abundant Birth Project addresses those disparities in a positive and active way, to directly benefit expecting mothers and their babies in those communities.”