State legislature passes bill in honor of Bichotte’s late son

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte holds an urn containing the ashes of Jonah Bichotte Cowan, the child she lost due to complications with her pregnancy.
Al Smith

Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte says that a bill in honor of her late son, Jonah Bichotte Cowan, has passed the State Legislator.

“Nearly four years ago, I lost my son, Jonah Bichotte Cowan, after going into preterm labor,” said Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “On Oct. 4, 2016, I entered the New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Hospital 22 weeks into my pregnancy after a check-up revealed that I was several centimeters dilated.

“At the hospital, I was told that my baby and I were in an incredibly fatal and high-risk situation,” she added. “Knowing the risks associated with this condition, the doctors at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Hospital, denied treatment and discharged me, citing a ‘hospital policy’, which claimed they could not intervene before 23 weeks because insurance would not cover my preterm labor care.”

The assemblywoman said she was a week away from receiving the care “we desperately needed.”

On Oct. 7, 2016, Bichotte said she gave birth to Jonah, “who was alive,” at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where she was admitted and received care.

“Jonah passed away several hours later,” she said.

In honor of Jonah, and all the other babies and mothers who have lost their lives” as a result of these cruel and inhumane policies,” Bichotte said she introduced the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law in the Assembly.

She said this legislation requires hospitals to inform expectant mothers if they are going into preterm labor and provide care to women with high-risk pregnancies.

Bichotte said the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law was passed last week in the New York State Assembly and Senate. The next step is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill into law.

“The enactment of Jonah’s bill is a huge achievement, not only for me personally but also to the one in 10 families who are at risk of preterm birth,” she said, thanking State Sen. Velmanette Montgomergy for carrying the bill in the Senate and to advocacy organizations, such as The Baby Resource Center, Star Legacy Foundation and March of Dimes for “their activism and support of this bill.”

“While I am elated that this legislation, named for my son, has passed,” she added. “I know there is still a lot left to do to ensure all women receive the care they need. Racial disparities are clear when it comes to maternal healthcare.”

Bichotte pointed to the most recent preterm birth statistics that show that the rate of preterm birth among Black women is about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women.

In the United States, Black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, she said.

Bichotte said this disparity is wider than in 1850, before the end of slavery.

Despite advancing medical technologies, the assemblywoman said more expectant mothers are dying today than they did 25 years ago, adding that Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

“These disparities are no coincidence,” she said. “They are the result of systemic racial injustices embedded in our healthcare system.”

Bichotte said when she first introduced Jonah’s bill in 2018, “it took many years of perseverance and advocacy to get where we are today.

“I will continue to champion this legislation, as it moves to the executive, and I will continue to fight to make sure expectant mothers across New York receive the quality healthcare they deserve, regardless of the color of their skin,” she assured.

“No pregnant woman should experience the trauma of being denied emergency medical care when she needs it most,” Bichotte added. I know that Jonah’s memory will live on in each and every life that is saved.”

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