Women’s Policy Institute: Update from Mariya

As some of you might already know, I am a Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) fellow for the 2013-2014 legislative year.  The Women’s Policy Institute is a yearlong program of intensive advocacy and leadership training retreats in Sacramento that teaches women activists and grassroots organizations how to successfully navigate the labyrinth of Sacramento. I’m excited to announce that my team, the Domestic Violence Team, has been working with Assemblymember Mark Stone’s office to raise support for AB 1579 – Healthy Babies Act of 2014. This bill aims to change the state’s CalWORKs statute to allow pregnant women who otherwise do not have children to become eligible for CalWORKs basic needs grants as soon as they are able to verify that they’re pregnant. Currently, low-income pregnant women are eligible for CalWORKs assistance only in the last three months of their pregnancy.

For many of the women our agency works with, financial dependence often forces survivors to remain in abusive relationships (between January 2012 and December 2013, close to 1300 of our clients reported financial abuse and dependence), and during pregnancy that financial dependence increases. In the past two years, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has received over 2000 calls on our crisis line from survivors who have reported financial abuse. Additionally, the National Survey of Domestic Violence Shelters indicated that over 74% of women stayed with an abusive partner longer because of financial concerns. In some cases, abusers intentionally impregnate their partners to exploit this financial control and assert their power.  Additionally, pregnant women with inadequate financial support are less able to afford healthy diets, preventing them from getting the nutrients necessary for proper fetal development. Often domestic violence begins or escalates in severity during pregnancy.*  The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) reports that domestic violence is more common than any other health problem among women during pregnancy. This bill is important because earlier participation in CalWORKs could help survivors access domestic violence social services, avoid stress, premature births and even mother and infant mortality.

Click here to learn more about WPI and what other pieces of legislation the fellows are working on.

~ Mariya, Community Liaison Manager

*Bohn, D.K., “Domestic Violence and Pregnancy. Implication for Practice.” Journal of Nurse Midwifery 1990 Mar-Apr; 35(2):86-98.

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