Press Release

As Maternal Mortality Rates Continue To Rise Across The Country And New York State, Gillibrand Announces New Legislation To Help Prevent Women From Dying Before, During, And After Childbirth

Aug 28, 2018

Maternal Deaths per 100,000 Live Births

maternal mortality

Washington, DC – With maternal mortality rates on the rise across the country and New York State, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, new 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 an NPR and ProPublica report, for every woman who dies in childbirth in the US, there are 70 women who nearly die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 60 percent of these deaths and complications are preventable. Hospitals often lack the funding necessary for supplies and proper training to implement standards to prevent complications and deaths arising from pregnancy and 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 pregnancy and childbirth. 

New York State has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, and over the past decade, the state has experienced a 60 percent increase in maternal mortality. To date, in August 2018, the rate of maternal mortality in New York State is 20.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In New York City, where half of the state’s births take place, there have been 22.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births so far this year. Racial disparities are also very evident, especially with black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from complications arising during or after childbirth. In New York City, black women are twelve times more likely to die from complications arising during or after childbirth.

“Our state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, and our country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world. It’s even worse for black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. In New York City, black women are twelve times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. This is completely unacceptable and largely avoidable, and it’s a crisis that we can and must solve now,” said Senator Gillibrand“This much-needed legislation would help our hospitals monitor all mothers before, during, and after they give birth for preventable but potentially fatal conditions like hemorrhage and preeclampsia, and it would provide them with the federal funding they need to purchase supplies to implement new procedures and effectively treat patients. We need to protect and value mothers, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation to address the urgent crisis of maternal mortality and help end racial disparities in our health care system.”

“MomsRising is proud to support Senator Gillibrand’s effort to introduce and pass this important bill, which would help ensure that all women receive the care they need before, during, and after their pregnancy, and allocate new resources to prevent maternal deaths in the U.S.,” 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 income, education, or access to healthcare. 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 and ethnic disparities that drive maternal deaths.”  

“As an OB/Gyn and health policy advocate, the accountability and standards set forth in Sen Gillibrand’s Bill are critical for ending the unacceptable loss of Mothers within one year of childbirth in the United States. This allows us to have a deeper analysis of the impact of racism, classism and gender oppression that causes the US rates to lead the industrialized world in Maternal Mortality with Black women disproportionately impacted. As the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, I am grateful for this important Bill and the work we have ahead,” said Dr. Joia Crear Perry, President, National Birth Equity Collaborative.  

“ACOG is thrilled to endorse Senator Gillibrand’s legislation, the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards Act (MOMS Act). The rate of maternal mortality in the United States is absolutely unacceptable — that’s why I have dedicated my ACOG presidency to addressing it,” said Lisa Hollier, M.D., M.P.H, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “This legislation will help us realize our goal of ending preventable maternal mortality by authorizing the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) – a multi-stakeholder collaborative that develops evidence-based maternal safety toolkits (known as bundles) to improve outcomes for our patients. We look forward to working with Senator Gillibrand to see this bill signed into law so that states and hospitals across the nation can provide the best care for pregnant and postpartum women.”

“In recent years, we have witnessed a national awakening to the persistent tragedy of maternal mortality in the United States.  At the same time, several exciting initiatives are underway to prioritize interventions we know will help save women’s lives.  The MOMs Act will build upon these initiatives, putting effective interventions into practice to reach more women.  The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs thanks Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in introducing this legislation,” said Barbara Laur, Interim CEO, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP).

The MOMS Act is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). This legislation would address the problem of maternal mortality by providing new funding to hospitals with obstetrics and gynecology practices that want to improve their response to pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated complications by implementing standardized best practices.

Specifically, the 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 Obstetrics and Gynecologists, and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. Gillibrand is also a cosponsor of the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act (S. 3363), which would authorize two new grant programs to address the racial disparities in maternal care; the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2017 (S. 1112), which would provide funding to states and Indian tribes to establish a new, or support the work of an existing, MMRC; and the Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act (S. 2637), 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).