Press Release

Senator Gillibrand Calls For Major Increase In Funding To Address Maternal Mortality Crisis Among Black Women And Eliminate Racial Bias In Maternal Care

Jan 24, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at the Roosevelt Family Health Center with Dr. Martine Hackett of Birth Justice Warriors and Chief Medical Officer of LIFQHC Dr. Tarika James to call for funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality crisis among Black women and eliminate racial bias in maternal care. Ahead of final negotiations for the FY22 appropriations package, Senator Gillibrand is calling on House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders to include $7 million to fund evidence-based training programs to reduce implicit bias in maternal health and $25 million to establish a program that delivers integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers that can reduce the disproportionate rate of maternal deaths among Black non-Hispanic women and adverse maternal health outcomes.

“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. Maternal mortality in our country is an epidemic, and the dangers to maternal health on Long Island have only been exacerbated by the stress, isolation, and inadequate access to health care that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That’s why I’m pushing to establish two new grant programs in the FY22 appropriations package to address inequities in our nation’s maternal health care and support women throughout pregnancy and before, during, and after childbirth. I will always serve as a fierce advocate for women across the country and will fight to ensure that every mother receives high-quality health care regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”

“The highest responsibility of our government is to protect and promote the well-being of its people, and investments in this area are crucial to living up to that standard. There is no reason that in a country with access to the best medical treatment options in the world, hundreds of new mothers die yearly of preventable causes. The data is clear that this is a crisis disproportionately impacting black women, with existing health inequities in the U.S. costing them their lives. Congress must act to provide the necessary support to address the inequities in our system that perpetuate this crisis and fund programs that will decrease maternal mortality and I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her efforts,” said State Senator John E. Brooks.

“It is deplorable where the United States currently stands regarding Maternal Health. So many women and newborns have lost their lives in medical situations that were preventable. When we consider the Maternal Health and Maternal Mortality of Black women in America, we are in dire times. What Black mothers and families have had to endure while bringing life into this world is tragic. Many of these experiences stem from biases within the medical profession toward Black women. So many of our medical concerns are ignored or diminished to our detriment. For these reasons, this is why I fully support Senator Gillibrand’s Maternal CARE Act. This act will provide life-saving training and education so women, and especially Black women, receive culturally competent maternal care. We deal with inequities in many facets of our lives here in America, but when women and children are dying, it is time for a significant and immediate intervention. The Maternal CARE Act needs to pass immediately, and I thank Senator Gillibrand for jumping to action,” said Assemblywoman Taylor Darling.

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 (CDC), approximately 700 pregnancy-related deaths occur in the U.S. each year, many of which are preventable. The overall maternal mortality rate in New York State is 10% higher than the national average. These risks have only grown over the past year, as COVID-19 presents unique risks for pregnant people and their babies. This disparity transcends income and education status, and cannot be explained away by risk factors such as genetics or lack of health care access. Despite the high number of pregnancy and childbirth complications, CDC studies have found that two out of three of all reported deaths were preventable.

In Senator Gillibrand’s letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, she calls for $7 million for evidence-based Implicit Bias Training Grants for medical and nursing school students and other health professionals to reduce bias and errors in judgment or behavior and $25 million to establish a Pregnancy Medical Home Demonstration Program that delivers integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers that could help reduce the disproportionate rate of maternal deaths among Black non-Hispanic women and adverse maternal health outcomes.

In addition, Gillibrand is also urging her colleagues to ensure the final FY22 spending package provides funding for several of her maternal health priorities, including at least:

  • $30 million to support uniform data collection through Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) that operate in nearly every state to review individual maternal deaths to understand their causes and help identify solutions to prevent these tragic outcomes;
  • $15 million for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) Program which provides states and hospital systems with actionable, evidence-based toolkits to improve maternal health outcomes;
  • $5 million for the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which serves as a critical lifeline for women in need of mental health support during pregnancy and the postpartum period;
  • $10 million for the Screening and Treatment of Maternal Depression and Related Behavioral Disorders Program (MDRBD) to support the training of health care providers to screen, assess, and treat for maternal mental health conditions and provide specialized psychiatric consultation to assist the providers.

Senator Gillibrand is a longtime champion for the health and rights of mothers and their families. She supports the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, which includes her bill, the Moms Matter Act. Gillibrand also supports a host of bills to reduce racial disparities in maternal health including her Maternal CARE Actthe Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Actand Senator Booker’s MOMMIES Act. The senator also co-led the TRICARE Coverage for Doula Support Act in 2020, which helped initiate a pilot program for TRICARE beneficiaries to receive coverage for doula fees as part of the FY21 NDAA. In 2021, she successfully secured $17 million in maternal health care funding in the FY21 appropriations package. The package included a key provision from Gillibrand’s MOMS Act, securing $9 million in federal funding for the AIM program.

To read the full letter, please click here.