Mayor Eric Adams signed a package of bills into law Tuesday that aim to improve maternal health and create more equitable outcomes for pregnant New Yorkers.

He was flanked by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Council members who sponsored the bills, which passed last month, along with Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

“I want to thank the speaker and the amazing team of lawmakers who played such an important role,” Adams said before signing the seven pieces of legislation. “We all talked about it over and over – how important it is to deal with the disparities around maternal health.”

Targeting the longstanding disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity has been a key issue for the Adams administration. Black New Yorkers are eight times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, and nearly three times as likely to suffer from severe pregnancy complications, according to a report released by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2019.

The bills are largely centered around education. Several measures require the city to inform pregnant New Yorkers about their rights, common pregnancy complications and the benefits of doulas and midwives. The newly minted laws also call for the city to publish research annually on maternal mortality and morbidity.

Some of those who spoke ahead of the bill signing shared personal stories.

“Two years ago when I first started to run [for City Council], my little sister’s best friend passed away a few hours after giving birth,” said Council member Althea Stevens, one of the legislative sponsors. “Today, I’m just honored to be here and make sure the lives that have been lost are being honored as we sign these bills into law.”

Williams was the primary sponsor for legislation Adams signed to establish a maternal health bill of rights. Addressing the crowd while holding his infant daughter, he noted that it was women on his staff who initially made him aware of the disparities in the city’s maternal health a couple of years ago.

“It’s not lost on me that [this legislation passes] when we have a majority women Council and a Black woman speaker,” Williams said. “This is the importance of making sure we have all the voices heard.”

One of the laws Adams signed codifies a program he announced in March to increase access to doulas, especially for low-income, first-time parents. At the time, Adams pledged to train and certify additional doulas with the goal of connecting 500 expecting parents with these pregnancy support professionals by the end of June.

The city had nearly reached that goal as of July, said Patrick Gallahue, a spokesperson for the city health department. He added that more than 200 experienced and newer doulas have been trained in the city’s particular model, and 36 community members have received doula training as part of the initiative as well.

This story was updated with a statement from the New York City health department.