Press Release

As Maternal Mortality Rates Continue To Cause A Public Health Crisis In New York, Gillibrand Stands With Christy Turlington Burns, Nyc Mothers, Advocates, And Medical Professionals To Announce Her Push On Legislation To Reduce Maternal Deaths, Give Hospitals Funding To Implement Best Practices To Prevent Women From Dying Before, During, And After Childbirth

Jan 13, 2019

New York, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today stood with Christy Turlington Burns, New York City mothers, advocates, and medical professionals to announce her push on the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, legislation that would help prevent women from suffering from medical complications or dying before, during, and after childbirth. The United States has more pregnancy-related deaths than any other developed country in the world, particularly among black women.

Each year it is estimated that there are at least 50,000 women who experience a complication during childbirth, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 60 percent of these deaths and complications are preventable. An NPR and ProPublica report found that for every woman who dies in childbirth in the US, there are 70 women who nearly die. Hospitals often have not invested the funding and resources necessary for supplies and proper training to implement standards and prevent complications and deaths arising from childbirth. The MOMS Act would help reduce maternal deaths and complications in the United States by providing funding to states and hospitals to develop and implement standardized maternal safety best practices, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to prevent and respond to complications arising from childbirth. 

“Our country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, and this crisis is disproportionately hurting black women, especially in New York. Imagine if a heart surgeon wasn’t checking their patient’s pulse after the surgery was finished. That’s how absurd and dangerous it is that millions of women are not getting the most basic measurements taken when they give birth – and it’s one of the most basic reasons why our rate of maternal mortality is so high in this country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It’s painfully clear that we are not doing nearly enough to protect women and their babies, and we are not doing nearly enough to end the institutional racism in our health care system. Congress urgently needs to solve this problem, and that’s why I’m proud to introduce the MOMS Act. This bill would take important steps to lower our high maternal mortality rate, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in fighting to pass it into law.”

Over the past decade, New York State has experienced a 60 percent increase in maternal mortality. According to the NYS Department of Health, the rate of maternal deaths in New York City has risen from 18.7 per 100,000 live births in 2007 to 31 per 100,000 live births in 2015. Racial disparities are also very evident, particularly in New York City, where more than half of all births in the state take place. In New York City, black women are estimated to be up to 12 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women and are three times more likely to suffer from life-threatening complications according to a 2018 study.

“The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world and it is continuing to increase. We need to take action to reverse this unacceptable trend,” said Christy Turlington Burns, Founder, Every Mother Counts. “The MOMS Act would help ensure that our hospitals are prepared to respond to medical emergencies for pregnant and post-partum women – and prevent them from happening in the first place.”

“Maternal mortality and morbidity is a complex problem that requires not only the deep commitment of our obstetric and hospital leaders, but of our government and community leaders as well,” said Dr. Mary D’Alton, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, which opened last year a first-of-its-kind Mothers Center for the care and management of expectant mothers who have significant medical and surgical complications. “At NewYork-Presbyterian, and at hospitals across the state, we have successfully worked to implement standardized protocols for obstetric emergencies to improve outcomes for mothers. I am so grateful to Senator Gillibrand for reintroducing the MOMS Act, which will further these efforts nationally by supporting the training, resources, and review boards that are so crucial to save more women’s lives from preventable causes of maternal death.”

“MomsRising is proud to support Senator Gillibrand’s reintroduction of the MOMS Act, which takes important steps towards preventing maternal deaths in the United States,” said Monifa Bandele, Senior Vice President of Maternal Justice Programs at MomsRising. “The U.S has the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world and due to racial bias in our healthcare system, women of color are disproportionately affected regardless of education or socioeconomic status. This legislation would help change that by standardizing protocols and increasing training for medical staff, which helps mitigate the impact of implicit bias, and authorizing a program to support hospitals serving low-income communities that are most at risk for maternal mortality. We commend this bill for including a focus on reducing the racial disparities that drive maternal deaths.”  

“The MOMS Act seeks to bridge the gap in provider/patient relationships by  providing accessible tools that aim to address the maternal mortality crisis in New York not just in one on one care but structurally.  It’s the first step to establishing concrete tools, connecting data through the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and CDC, and providing resources to those most impacted by implicit bias and racism within healthcare.  My hope is that the MOM’s Act will begin the work of creating culturally humble collaborative care frameworks where doctors, midwives, doulas, and other health care professionals can truly impact the way pregnant people delivering their babies or seeking our reproductive health care services  receive care in New York State,” said Chanel L. Porchia-Albert CD, CLC Founder Ancient Song Doula Services.

Specifically, Gillibrand’s MOMS Act would do the following:

  • Promote and update maternal safety standards and best practices for hospitals: The MOMS Act would expand the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) Program at HHS to develop new and update existing standardized maternal safety best practices and to provide technical assistance to states and hospitals to voluntarily implement such standards to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity.
  • Create a grant program to help states and hospitals implement the standardized maternal safety best practices developed by AIM: The grant funding would be used to further develop, purchase the necessary supplies for, and conduct training to fully implement the new best practices for preventing maternal death and complications. Funding would be prioritized for hospitals serving low-income, at-risk, and rural populations.
  • Improve the CDC Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System to include reports from state Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) investigations of pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths.
  • Direct the CDC to provide technical assistance to State MMRCs to review pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated complications.

Gillibrand’s legislation is supported by Moms Rising, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, National Birth Equity Collaborative, and Every Mother Counts.

Gillibrand is also a cosponsor of the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act, which would authorize two new grant programs to address the racial disparities in maternity care; the Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act, which would create new ways to measure the quality of existing maternity and infant care provided through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and the MOMMIES Act, which would enhance and expand Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women. Gillibrand was also a cosponsor of the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2017, which would provide funding to states and Indian tribes to establish a new, or support the work of an existing, MMRC. The House version of this bill was signed into law last month.