Last Friday Governor Brown signed into law AB 1579, the Healthy Babies Act (Stone), which will allow pregnant women to obtain CalWORKs benefits in the second trimester of pregnancy instead of limiting access to the third trimester. Previously, women without other children at home who were struggling financially but more than three months from their due date were ineligible for CalWORKS, the state’s welfare program for low-income families. This important change will lessen undue stress on expectant mothers by ensuring earlier access to assistance that can mitigate financial burden, eliminate dependence on abusive partners and ensure better health outcomes for infants.
Domestic violence is the most common health problem among pregnant women. One in six women pregnant women report physical or sexual abuse during pregnancy, and sixty percent of those say the abuse is recurrent. CalWORKS provides income and employment opportunities which help keep pregnant or parenting women financially independent, thus making it less likely they will stay with or return to an abusive partner.
In addition to the detrimental effects of domestic violence on the health and safety of pregnant women, there are broader social and economic impacts as well. Victims of intimate partner violence lose almost 8 million days of paid work each year because of the violence perpetrated against them.
Julia Parish, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, which co-sponsored the bill, said “This is a great day for women and families in California. This new law will help pregnant victims of domestic violence remain financially independent by giving them access to employment and training opportunities along with financial assistance at the time they need it most.”
 McFarlane, J., Parker, B., Soeken, K. Bullock, L., “Assessing for Abuse During Pregnancy-Severity & Frequency of Injuries & Associated Entry Into Prenatal Care.” JAMA 1992; 267:3176-3178