U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced two vital pieces of legislation to address the Black maternal health crisis during Black Maternal Health week. The Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act, would expand the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) program, which develops standardized maternal safety best practices to prevent maternal mortality and morbidity, and would establish a new grant program to provide states and hospitals with the resources and training needed to implement the best practices to prevent maternal death and complications before, during, and after childbirth.
Gillibrand also announced the Maternal CARE Act which would support states in their work to end preventable morbidity and mortality in maternity care by creating two new grants programs. The first is a competitive grant program for schools educating the health workforce to create training programs to address implicit bias in the health care system, in particular the areas of obstetrics and gynecology. The second establishes funding for a demonstration project to assist up to 10 states with implementing and sustaining pregnancy medical home (PMH) programs to incentivize maternal health care providers to deliver integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers with the aim of reducing maternal deaths and racial health disparities. U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) is the House lead of the Maternal CARE Act.
“Black mothers in the United States are facing a public health crisis due to deep systemic racial inequities and Congress has a moral responsibility to act,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Childbirth should be safe for all, but for too many Black mothers navigating prenatal and postpartum care, keeping themselves and their infants safe is a gamble. I am proud to introduce the MOMS Act and the Maternal CARE Act, which will help our nation finally begin to heal these preventable tragedies with quality, evidence-based care to protect Black mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and on their postpartum journeys.”
“Our nation’s health system fails Black mothers and their children. The maternal mortality epidemic in the African American community has reached crisis levels and continues to deprive communities of mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and leaders,” said Congresswoman Adams, co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “As long as mothers of color continue to suffer from disproportionate rates of mortality and morbidity compared to their white counterparts, the Maternal CARE Act will help save lives. Women of color continue to suffer from implicit bias, a lack of adequate health care services, and disparate access to culturally competent maternal health education. This bill will provide guidance for Black women in maternal health and work to ensure that all women have access to high quality care. I am proud to introduce this bill during Black Maternal Health Week because Black mamas can’t wait.”
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is proud to endorse the reintroduction of the MOMS Act and the Maternal CARE Act—two critical bills that will advance health equity and improve the quality of maternal health care for birthing people nationwide,” said ACOG CEO Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, FACOG. “The rise in preventable U.S. maternal deaths is a multifactorial problem that will require a variety of thoughtful solutions. By authorizing the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, the MOMS Act would help promote the adoption by hospitals and health systems of standardized best practices for treating life-threatening, pregnancy-related conditions such as hemorrhage to help ensure safe care for every U.S. birth. Additionally, the Maternal CARE Act, will provide funding for implicit bias training to help address issues related to racism in the delivery of care, while also testing innovative ways to provide integrated health care services to pregnant individuals through pregnancy medical homes. These efforts will go a long way in addressing the maternal mortality crisis in this country. ACOG encourages the Senate to advance this legislation and thanks Sen. Gillibrand for her leadership in ensuring that the health of pregnant people—and particularly pregnant people of color—remains a top priority.”
“As an organization whose mission is to create solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health, the National Birth Equity Collaborative applauds Senator Gillibrand’s reintroduction of the MOMS Act and the Maternal CARE Act, which overlaps with Black Maternal Health Week— a celebratory time intended to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the U.S. We uplift these incredibly strong, transformative pieces of legislation that will require the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to health-professional training programs for training that addresses implicit bias and, even more, create grant programs to help states and hospitals implement maternal safety best practices. As these bills move through Congress, it is our hope that the Administration will respond to the ask of the Congresswoman and others to establish a White House Office of Sexual Reproductive Health and Wellbeing to ensure a permanent infrastructure that would undergird these bills once signed into law,” said Dr. Joia Crear Perry, Founder & President, National Birth Equity Collaborative
The United States continues to have the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, driven in large part by the high mortality rates among Black mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. about 700 women die each year due to a complication before, during and after childbirth. These issues disproportionately impact Black women, who are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Despite the high number of pregnancy and childbirth complications, CDC studies have found that two out of three of all reported deaths were preventable.
A champion for women and families, Gillibrand previously joined colleagues to announce 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. The Momnibus includes the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, a bill originally cosponsored by 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.
Read summaries of each bill here: MOMS Act and Maternal CARE Act.