Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06) joined Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams (NC-12), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to introduce a historic legislative package to address the United States’ urgent maternal health crisis.
McBath’s legislation, the Social Determinants for Moms Act, is included in the legislative omnibus, or “Momnibus,” and funds access to services and critical research to help save the lives of American women.
“Like many women in America, my story includes a struggle to get pregnant. My son Jordan was a miracle for me, and for my family,” McBath said. “But for too many mothers in America, the miracle of pregnancy ends in tragedy.
“The United States has the worst rate of maternal death in the developed world,” she continued. “This is unacceptable, there is no reason that in the richest nation on earth, we cannot keep our mothers and our families healthy and whole. We can solve this crisis if we are intentional in our solutions and work together to keep our women safe.”
The United States has the worst pregnancy-related death rate in the developed world, and the rate is only rising. The maternal mortality rate is significantly higher among Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.
Black women also experience higher rates of maternal complications and infant mortality and are twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death. These disparities have not improved for more than 30 years.
“While maternal mortality rates continue to drop around the world, they are rising in the U.S., leaving behind devastated families and children who will grow up never knowing their moms. This crisis demands urgent attention and serious action to save the lives of Black mothers and all women across the county,” said Underwood, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is a sweeping effort to address our nation’s maternal mortality crisis through effective, evidence-based, and culturally competent solutions.
“The time to end preventable maternal mortality and close racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes is long overdue,” Underwood added. “With the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, we can work together to solve this crisis right now. New moms and their children and families deserve nothing less.”
The Social Determinants for Moms Act, led by McBath, makes key investments in both services and research, including taking steps to address inequities in childcare, housing, nutrition, transportation, and environmental justice.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 builds on existing maternal health legislation to comprehensively address every dimension of the maternal health crisis.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus makes investments in social determinants of health, community-based organizations, the growth and diversification of the perinatal workforce, improvements in data collection and quality measures, digital tools like telehealth, and innovative payment models.
“For decades, the US maternal mortality and morbidity rates have gotten worse for all mothers, but especially for Black women whose health outcomes are further compounded by systemic and structural racism,” said Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is a historic piece of legislation that not only fills existing gaps in maternal healthcare but also works to address pervasive maternal health disparities through solutions that are culturally-congruent and proven effective.
“The Momnibus provides a new roadmap to ensure our healthcare systems, providers, and society truly make Black maternal and infant health a priority,” Adams added. “This legislation says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to unveil a comprehensive package that tackles one of the greatest public health crises of our time.”
In addition to direct efforts to improve maternal health outcomes, the Momnibus focuses on high-risk populations, including women veterans, incarcerated women, and Native Americans. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is composed of nine individual bills sponsored by members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and Senator Harris.
The legislation will:
- Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition;
- Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women;
- Comprehensively study the unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and invest in VA maternity care coordination;
- Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives maternity care and support from people she can trust;
- Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it;
- Invest in maternal mental health care and substance use disorder treatments;
- Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated women;
- Invest in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas; and
- Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and continuity of health insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to 1 year postpartum.