The New York City Council’s vote to pass the parental empowerment package – a series of bills designed to decrease the mortality and morbidity rates for women of color giving birth – was met with praise from Queens lawmakers.
The provisions of the bill will make childcare resources, such as access to lactation rooms and affordable baby supplies, more readily available to new mothers. The package was spearheaded by Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn), and included bills sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilmembers Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn), Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) and Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan).
“We like to say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ but too often in this country that’s just empty rhetoric,” said Councilmember Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona). “It’s not enough to simply talk about the glass ceiling and pay equity and women’s rights. On Wednesday, the City Council came together to show that we value mothers and parents and we support working class-families. Starting a family is not a career liability and should not be treated like one. This package of bills is a major step forward in becoming that village we tout.”
The package provides for several provisions that will require employers to provide lactation rooms for expecting mothers and raise the minimum standards of quality for said rooms.
“As we have become increasingly aware of the myriad benefits associated with breastfeeding, it is only appropriate that we do everything in our power to stick to our word,” said Robert Cornegy. “And this means empowering moms to be able to safely and healthily breastfeed their children. Nursing mothers DESERVE to have access to a safe, clean, comfortable space to breastfeed or express breastmilk no matter where the responsibilities of life take them.”
The package also includes a bill that will require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide regular, detailed reports on maternal mortality. The bill, sponsored by Rosenthal, mandates annual and five-year mortality reports, and requires the reports to include recommendations for lowering the rates.
“Maternal mortality and morbidity, especially among Black women, is a public health crisis in New York City – and it’s an acute symptom of a far broader problem, reflecting the underlying sexism and racism in our society,” said Rosenthal. I’m proud to have sponsored these two bills in the package we are voting on today – they are critical steps towards supporting pregnant New Yorkers and improving health outcomes for our mothers and their babies.”
City Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) said that the package was long overdue.
“It’s inexcusable that, in the wealthiest city in the wealthiest country, women of color are 12 times more likely to die from childbirth complications,” said Constantinides. “The bills we passed today take a step further in supporting women, from increasing the number of lactation rooms to making baby supplies more accessible. I am proud to be part of a City Council that puts these issues at the forefront.”
James’ bill will provide for the establishment of a working group that would study the viability of providing discounted childcare services to city employees. After twelve months of study, the group would issue a report, after which they would oversee the creation of a one-year pilot project to construct a childcare center for children aged four and under.
“Child care should be a basic right for every family, but too many in New York City cannot afford the growing costs,” said James. “Providing on-site, subsidized child care for municipal workers will be a game changer for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. We must do all we can to support hardworking families and this program is a huge step towards doing that.”
The final bill in the package, sponsored by Mark Treyger, will mandate the provision of diapers and baby wipes at domestic violence shelters and other temporary housing centers.
“Diapers and wipes are not luxury items; they are a critical and expensive every day necessity that some of our city’s families struggle to afford,” said Treyger. “This legislation is about showing basic decency, freeing some of our working families from shouldering a challenging economic burden and strengthening our city’s social safety net.”