Ruiz, Cunningham Bill to Address Implicit Bias in Maternal Care Clears Committee

Trenton – In an attempt to address racial biases in maternal care, Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved legislation today, which would require implicit bias training for many health professionals who provide prenatal and perinatal care to pregnant women. The legislation is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Sandra B. Cunningham.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that the maternal mortality rate for Black women in New Jersey is more than double the national rate,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Hopefully, by unpacking the implicit biases healthcare workers may hold, we can begin to improve outcomes across racial demographics and provide more equitable care to our mothers around the state. This is just a start, it is crucial we are doing everything we can to ensure everyone is receiving the highest level of care.”

The bill, S-703, would require every hospital that provides inpatient maternity services and every birthing center to implement implicit bias training for all health professionals who provide perinatal treatment and care to pregnant women. The bill would additionally require all administrative and clerical staff members who interact with pregnant women at the hospital or birthing center to complete the implicit bias training program.

“Far too often we hear stories of Black women’s complaints about pain or discomfort that were ignored or brushed aside, only to result in serious complications or death,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Doctors may not be intentionally treating Black women differently, but the maternal mortality data makes it clear that there are systemic issues resulting in vast disparities in outcomes.”

The training would include information about communicating more effectively across racial, ethnic, religious and gender identities and corrective measures to decrease implicit bias at the interpersonal and institutional level. In addition to the training, the relevant health care professionals would be required to complete a refresher course with updated information every two years.

Additionally, the bill would require all physicians, physician assistants, and professional and practical nurses who provide prenatal or perinatal treatment and care to pregnant women to complete, as part of their continuing medical education, one credit of educational programs or topics concerning implicit bias. This will ensure that professionals providing prenatal and perinatal services outside the hospital or birthing center will also be subject to implicit bias training.

Implicit bias refers to a bias in judgement or behavior resulting from implicit prejudice and implicit stereotypes that often operate at a level conscious awareness and without intentional control.

 

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 7-0.