Baby Bichotte Bill Becomes Law

Last July, both houses of the New York State Legislature passed the Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law to protect pregnant mothers who experience pre-term labor.

The Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law (Bill S.8525-Montgomery/A.2770-C-Bichotte) was introduced by Asm. Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn). The bill is named for the Assemblywoman’s deceased son. Asm. Bichotte recently shared her personal experience with pre-term labor in a speech on the Assembly floor. In 2016, Asm. Bichotte—then five-and-one-half months pregnant—went to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital after going into pre-term labor. According to the Assemblywoman, she was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix; appallingly, she was then given two options: Have an abortion or leave the hospital. (Hospital personnel asserted that hospital policy prevented them from providing care to a pregnant mother prior to 23 weeks’ gestation because insurance would not cover such care.) Asm. Bichotte chose life for her son and departed the hospital. After a one-week stay at Wyckoff Hospital, the Assemblywoman gave birth to Jonah. He lived for two hours.

The Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law will require hospitals to either admit pregnant mothers who experience pre-term labor or to provide them with emergency room treatment until they can be transferred to other hospitals or safely discharged. It will also require hospitals to provide such pregnant mothers with an informational leaflet about pre-term labor. The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate without opposition and on December 22, 2020 was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Asm. Bichotte asserts that “‘no pregnant women should be turned away from a hospital during pre-term labor.’” At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we agree. We thank Asm. Bichotte for her bravery in sharing this painful experience, and for crafting a bill to protect other pregnant mothers from being denied appropriate medical care.