Nearly four years ago, I lost my son, Jonah Bichotte Cowan, after going into preterm labor. On October 4, 2016, I entered the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Hospital 22 weeks into my pregnancy after a check-up revealed that I was several centimeters dilated. At the hospital, I was told that my baby and I were in an incredibly fatal and high risk situation.
Knowing the risks associated with this condition, the doctors at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Hospital, denied treatment and discharged me, citing a ‘hospital policy’ which claimed they could not intervene before 23 weeks because insurance would not cover my preterm labor care. I was a week away from receiving the care we desperately needed.
On October 7, 2016, I gave birth to Jonah, who was alive, at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where I was admitted and received care. Jonah passed away several hours later.
In honor of Jonah, and all the other babies and mothers who have lost their lives as a result of these cruel and inhumane policies, I introduced the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law.
This legislation requires hospitals to inform expectant mothers if they are going into preterm labor, and provide care to women with high-risk pregnancies.
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte debates the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law bill on the Assembly floor.
The Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law passed in the New York State Assembly on Monday and in the Senate on Thursday. The next step is for the Governor to sign the bill into law.
The enactment of Jonah’s bill is a huge achievement, not only for me personally, but also for the one in ten families who are at risk of preterm birth.
Thank you to State Senator Velmanette Montgomergy for carrying the bill in the senate, and to advocacy organizations such as The Baby Resource Center, Star Legacy Foundation and March of Dimes for their activism and support of this bill.
Black Maternal Health Matters
While I am elated that this legislation, named for my son, has passed, I know there is still a lot left to do to ensure all women receive the care they need. Racial disparities are clear when it comes to maternal healthcare.
- The most recent preterm birth statistics show that the rate of preterm birth among Black women is about 50% higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women.
- In the United States, Black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants. This disparity is wider than in 1850, before the end of slavery.
- Despite advancing medical technologies, more expectant mothers are dying today than they did 25 years ago, and Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.
These disparities are no coincidence. They are the result of systemic racial injustices embedded in our healthcare system.
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.