Without cash assistance, low-income pregnant women have few alternatives and are more likely to endure abuse that could cause long- and short-term harm to both themselves and their unborn children.
(left to right, top to bottom) Nicole Marquez, Worksafe; Mariya Taher, W.O.M.A.N., Inc.; Maria-Elena Caprio, Shanti Project; Julia Parish, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; Melodie Kruspodin, Peace Over Violence
Did you know that among pregnant women, domestic violence is more common than any other health problem?
Our Women’s Policy Institute fellows Maria-Elena, Mariya, Nicole, Julia and Melodie are working to solve this problem through public policy. Their solution? AB 1579—bill authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone. This bill addresses three significant challenges facing low-income women who are pregnant for the first time. Some of these women are experiencing domestic violence:
- The inability to access cash assistance through the CalWORKs program at the start of pregnancy (currently women must wait until the third trimester);
- Financial problems, which contribute to women remaining in abusive relationships; and
- Health risks faced by pregnant women and their unborn children.
Without cash assistance, low-income pregnant women have few alternatives and are more likely to endure abuse that could cause long- and short-term harm to both themselves and their unborn children. AB 1579 would allow women to obtain CalWORKs benefits upon first verification of pregnancy. Currently, they are forced to wait until their third trimesters, often putting themselves and their children at risk. This cash assistance would help to ease financial pressures, eliminate dependence on abusive partners and ensure better health outcomes for their babies.
“Pregnancy is generally considered to be a joyful time. The mother hears her child’s heartbeat for the first time… watches the ultrasound screen in wonder and sees her child sucking her thumb…smiles as she hears the doctor say that everything is going as planned. Unfortunately, not all women are lucky enough to have a safe, healthy and joyful pregnancy. Life happens. Layoffs happen. Divorces happen. And domestic violence happens. Right now, in California, more than 40,000 pregnant women find themselves in poverty. They’re growing life inside of their bellies, but are struggling to make ends meet for themselves. But, like all women, women living below the poverty line deserve to be healthy and to deliver a healthy child,” said Mariya Taher, one of the five fellows working on this bill.
“Personally, I’m excited about this bill because it will help domestic violence survivors. You see, financial dependence often forces women to stay in abusive relationships and during pregnancy that financial dependence increases. Unfortunately, at the same time, domestic violence often intensifies. If this bill were to pass, women could start receiving a small cash grant from the moment they can prove they’re pregnant. And that small grant might just be incentive enough for them to walk away and leave their abusers for good,” said Mariya.
The mentor for this team is Krista Niemczyk, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.
2013-14 Women’s Policy Institute Teams