Conservative Organizations Fight To End Affirmative Action For A Maternal Health Program In California
The Abundant Birth Project’s $1,000 monthly stipend to minority, low-income pregnant mothers has been deemed “illegal" and "wasteful" by critics.
The Abundant Birth Project, a program that provides resources to Black and Pacific Islander women in San Francisco, is under fire for being deemed unconstitutional.
As the initiative, established in June 2021, seeks to provide a second round of grants to pregnant mothers in the fall, a lawsuit has been filed alleging the program illegally discriminated against other races and uses public money in a manner that is “illegal, wasteful, and injurious.”
According to 19thNews, the program is designed to counter “obstetric racism,” which highlights the alarming rate of African American deaths resulting from childbirth. The project has benefited 150 pregnant Black and Pacific Islander residents of San Francisco by providing a $1,000 monthly stipend to support the expecting mothers throughout their pregnancy and six months after.
The lawsuit, which names the Abundant Birth Project, claims the program is discriminatory because it only supports people of a specific race. The allegations are a part of a series of attempts by conservative groups to do away with racial preferences in various institutions after the Supreme Court ruled race-conscious admission to colleges and universities was unconstitutional. The lawsuit also makes claims about income programs in San Francisco that support artists, transgender people, and Black young adults.
The litigation to end racial preferences has various implications in healthcare. The legal actions may affect efforts to increase scholarships for minority medical students to diversify the healthcare field. Efforts to combat racial disparities in maternal mortality may also be affected.
Among the groups working to end affirmative action policies is Do No Harm, a nonprofit established in 2022. The organization aims to stop selecting applications based on race and has sued health commissions, pharmaceutical companies, and public health journals. The California for Equal Rights Foundation and American Civil Rights Projects, a firm based in Dallas, filed a lawsuit against San Francisco and the state of California over allegations that the Abundant Birth Project violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, a law that provided rights to formerly enslaved Black people following the Civil War.
American Civil Rights Project Executive Director Dan Morenoff believes the project should be shut down if it is not made available to all pregnant people. “The city and county of San Francisco crafted the Abundant Birth Project with the express intention of picking beneficiaries based on race,” Morenoff said. “It’s unconstitutional. They can’t legally do it, and we are optimistic that the courts will not allow them to continue to do it.”
On the other hand, Khiara Bridges, a Berkeley law professor and anthropologist, says the Supreme Court ruling in favor of affirmative action may support the program that received $5 million from California to include Black mothers in four additional counties. The verdict claimed that Harvard and the University of North Carolina could not provide evidence of the benefits of using race when selecting college applicants. However, Bridges said it is expected that research will be able to provide statistical evidence that demonstrates improved health outcomes for families that received financial support from the Abundant Birth Project.
Briana Jones, a recipient of the Abundant Birth Project stipend, says she was told by a nurse to “shut up” when she was screaming in pain during her first birth at 15 years old. When Jones learned of the program from her mother, she said, “I really did feel like it was God helping me.” Jones qualified for the program because her race and residence in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco, Bayview Hunter Point, allowed her to receive the stipend. According to the outlet, the stipend allowed Jones to move into an apartment and have a healthy birth. She now has a son named Adonis.
“It’s known that people of color struggle way harder than other races,” Jones said. “Where I live, it’s nothing but struggle here, people trying to make ends meet.” Jones says “it’s wrong” for people to attempt to take the program away.
As previously covered by BLACK ENTERPRISE, the rate of U.S. maternal mortality rates more than doubled between 1999 and 2019. The study published in the medical journal JAMA found Black women had the highest maternal mortality deaths.