New York could become the first state in the country to offer paid family leave during pregnancy – as opposed to only after the child is already born. Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants to expand the state’s policy to include 40 hours of paid leave for prenatal appointments.
“Consistent medical care in the early months makes all the difference, and it can detect problems, makes adjustments if necessary,” Hochul said Thursday during a preview of her State of the State address. “We hope what we’re doing here in New York will raise the bar for the rest of the nation.”
More than 80% of the state’s workforce is entitled to 12 weeks – or roughly three months – of paid parental leave under current law. However, paid family leave is only available after the child is born – and short-term disability benefits are only available until four weeks before the child’s birth after a seven-day waiting period. The proposed inclusion of prenatal care as a separate qualifying event, the governor’s office said, would amend this.
The proposal, one of several she’s laid out in advance of her State of the State address on Tuesday, will likely need approval from the state Legislature.
The announcement also comes weeks after news that the country’s infant mortality rate rose for the first time in two decades: a 3% increase from 2021 to 2022, according to a November report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a press release, the governor’s office cited studies that those who regularly attend prenatal medical visits are less likely to die in childbirth.
Hochul – who also referred to herself as the state’s first “mom governor”– called the recent report “personal.”
“When you take time off – to go to that doctor’s appointment – the waiting room is crowded, and they say, ‘We’ll see you in about an hour and a half,’ – you’ll clicking down how much less money is going to be in your paycheck that day,” Hochul said.
Hochul also said she intends to introduce legislation in the state’s executive budget that will include doula services without referral from a physician, calling it a “support system that women – particularly Black and brown communities – absolutely need.”
The state is proposing more oversight into avoiding cesarean section births for low-risk pregnancies, eliminating co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses in certain health plans, distributing portable cribs to help combat Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths and training counselors for those dealing with postpartum depression.
“Every mother – every family – deserves to have the joy and excitement associated with pregnancy and childbirth, not fear and trepidation to bring these little people into the world,” Hochul said.