Press Release

As COVID-19 Pandemic Continues To Exacerbate Health Inequalities For Black Mothers, Gillibrand, Colleagues Unveil Immediate And Long-Term Plans To Address Maternal Health Crisis

Feb 12, 2021

As Black women across New York struggle with access to maternal health care and negative health outcomes due to racial and systemic discrimination, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined colleagues earlier this week in announcing historic legislation to save moms’ lives and fight for maternal health and reproductive justice for Black women and pregnant people of color. Introduced by Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ), Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL), The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 builds on existing maternal health legislation, and includes 12 bills to comprehensively address?the drivers of the maternal health crisis and its disproportionate impact on Black women.

Following the announcement of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, Gillibrand and colleagues sent a letter urging Senate and House leadership to include provisions in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package that dedicate greater resources to safeguarding the health of pregnant and postpartum individuals and combating the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis throughout this public health crisis. Specifically, the lawmakers asked that leadership include portions of their Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, in the package. 

“The maternal mortality crisis continues to have a disproportionate impact on Black women, who are up to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy related complication and are too often forgotten or silenced in the conversation on maternal health,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate health inequities for Black women and communities of color, we must develop a pandemic response with care and attention to maternal health. Together, the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, and the Moms Matter Act, create the roadmap we need to uplift the voices of Black mothers in Washington, and help put an end to racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health care.”

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act builds on existing maternal health legislation, and includes 12 bills to comprehensively address?the racial disparities that are driving the maternal health crisis — including the Moms Matter Act, led by Senator Gillibrand.?The Moms Matter Act would make investments in community-based programs that provide mental and behavioral health treatments and support to moms with maternal mental health conditions or substance use disorders. Additionally, it would provide funding for programs to grow and diversify the maternal mental and behavioral health care workforce in an effort to ensure quality, culturally competent health care. 

The?Momnibus also?includes the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, a bill originally cosponsored by Senator Gillibrand earlier this year. This bill would address maternal health disparities by improving data collection on COVID-19’s impact on pregnant and postpartum women, and would ensure that pregnant people– especially people of color and other at-risk populations– are included in vaccine studies and distribution plans. This bill confronts the structural racism in maternal health outcomes by prioritizing racial equity and tasking the federal government with improving the delivery of and access to anti-racist, culturally congruent, and respectful maternity care during the pandemic.

A one-page summary of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, can be found here, and additional information about the individual bills in the Momnibus can be found on the Black Maternal Health Caucus website.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act is composed of twelve individual bills sponsored by Black Maternal Health Caucus Members. The legislation will:  

1. Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition.  

2. Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes and promote equity.  

3. Comprehensively study the unique maternal health risks facing pregnant and postpartum veterans and support VA maternity care coordination programs.  

4. Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives culturally congruent maternity care and support.  

5. 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.  

6.  Support moms with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders.  

7. Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated moms.  

8.  Invest in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas.  

9.  Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and continuity of insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to 1 year postpartum.  

10. Invest in federal programs to address the unique risks for and effects of COVID-19 during and after pregnancy and to advance respectful maternity care in future public health emergencies.  

11. Invest in community-based initiatives to reduce levels of and exposure to climate change-related risks for moms and babies.  

12. Promote maternal vaccinations to protect the health and safety of moms and babies.