On December 23rd, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law(A2770C/S8525A) to establish requirements for treatment when an expectant mother presents at a general hospital with concerns about being in pre-term labor. The law is named in memory of Jonah Bichotte Cowan, son of Brooklyn Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “We must guarantee our healthcare system looks out for all expecting mothers and provides for their safety and the safety of their newborn. It’s no secret that disparities exist within the health care system and now New York is taking a real, meaningful step towards making it more fair, supportive and equitable,” Governor Cuomo said. “Thanks to the work of Assemblymember Bichotte, all expectant mothers in New York will have their medical concerns taken seriously and the hospital of their choice will be prepared to admit, diagnose, and treat expectant mothers in emergency situations.”
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for signing the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law, in memory of my late son, into law today. Addressing the standard of care for expectant mothers experiencing preterm labor is a critical step towards reducing disparities in Black maternal care and Black infant care. Black infants are more than twice as likely to die from premature birth than babies of other races. Unfortunately, I have experienced that disparity firsthand when I lost my own son, Jonah, after being turned away from a hospital in an incredibly high risk situation. I also thank my colleagues in Albany, the doctors and advocates who shared their own stories and weighed in on this legislation and the many women who helped me champion this bill. Other mothers and infants, of all races and ethnicities, will now receive the standard medical care at hospitals they deserve because of this legislation in Jonah’s memory.”
Senator Velmanette Montgomery said, “This important legislation will ensure that women experiencing a pregnancy related emergency will be able to access the critical care that they need and requires hospitals to provide the appropriate medical attention. I thank the Governor for signing this legislation and my colleague, Assemblywoman Bichotte, for her bravery in sharing her heartbreaking experience and mobilizing us to increase medical care for pregnant women and babies in distress.” The law will require hospitals to develop their own protocols in line with already existing federal and state requirements for admitting, diagnosing, and treating expectant mothers experiencing an emergency medical condition. Information to patients about pre-term labor and premature birth will be distributed in a pamphlet given at pre-booking and at prenatal care visits. The Department of Health will develop informational materials for emergency department staff reminding them of federal and state discharge and transfer requirements.
I first introduced Jonah’s bill in 2018. It took many years of perseverance and advocacy to get where we are today. I will continue to champion this legislation as it moves to the executive, and I will continue to fight to make sure expectant mothers across New York receive the quality healthcare they deserve, regardless of the color of their skin. No pregnant woman should experience the trauma of being denied emergency medical care when she needs it most. I know that Jonah’s memory will live on in each and every life that is saved.