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New state budget requires NY employers to give paid leave for prenatal care

This stock photo shows a doctor using a stethoscop on a pregnant woman with stethoscope. Concept caring for pregnant woman
Adobe Stock
This stock photo shows a doctor using a stethoscop on a pregnant woman.

New York State is taking steps towards improving maternal health care for pregnant people.

Earlier this week, state lawmakers passed a budget for the next fiscal year and it expanded the state’s family leave law so pregnant individuals can get paid leave from work to attend prenatal doctors’ visits.

“No one should ever have to fear seeking care because of the costs it will impose or time missed from work,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a news release.

The state’s new policy will require that employers offer an extra 20 hours of paid sick leave to pregnant employees on top of their existing paid sick leave.

State Sen. Samra Brouk has spent significant time advocating for policies that could improve health care outcomes for mothers and their babies. She said this prenatal leave program will help eliminate some of the stressors associated with pregnancy.

“If you put yourself in a pregnant person's shoes, you have to make that decision where are you going to take your prenatal appointment? Or are you going to stay at work and earn that paycheck that you need to support your family?” Brouk said.

She said the stakes are even higher for Black New Yorkers who are five times more likely to die due to pregnancy related complications than white people.

“One of the ways in which we can identify when there may be complications, when there may be a diagnosis that needs further care, is through prenatal appointments,” Brouk said.

Brouk said paid prenatal leave also helps with economic development by allowing pregnant people to remain a part of the workforce.

“Continuing your career and your job while also taking care of yourself during that time of pregnancy, I think, is going to be helpful overall for everyone,” Brouk said.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.