Press Release

Senator Gillibrand, Mayor Adams, Rep. Clarke, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso Call For Critical Funding To Address Maternal Mortality Crisis Among Black Women And Eliminate Racial Bias In Maternal Care

Jan 16, 2022

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at New York City Health + Hospitals/Kings County with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso to call for funding to address the nation’s maternal mortality crisis among Black women and eliminate racial bias in maternal care. They were joined by Chief Women’s Health Service Officer for New York City Health + Hospitals Dr. Wendy Wilcox, New York City Councilmember Rita Joseph, Former Chair of the Midwives of Color Committee of the American College of Nurse-Midwives Patricia Loftman, and Omari Maynard, who shared his family’s personal story. 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 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.”

“We must ensure that every Black and Brown mom in this country has the resources, support, and care they need from the start — nothing less is acceptable,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “We must protect every mother and baby, no matter the color of their skin or what language they speak. I’m grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her steadfast leadership and advocacy on behalf of moms in New York and across the country, and I’m proud to stand with her and demand this critical funding for evidence-based programs to address the maternal mortality crisis.”

“America has a serious maternal mortality crisis. And Black women and other people of color are bearing the brunt of this unacceptable reality that continues to devastate families across the country. There is simply no excuse for the United States, high in resources, to have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world that disproportionately impacts women of color. It’s time to go beyond the message and meaningfully apply the solutions these bills offer to reduce the high rate of death during childbirth in America. We have lost too many lives to this preventable heartache, especially Black lives. It is a devastating fact that Black women are still nearly four times more likely to die due to pregnancy related complications compared to other groups. And this outcome is a tragic reality for many families in our Brooklyn community,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. “We need meaningful solutions to address America’s maternal mortality crisis comprehensively. That is why I wholeheartedly support U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s mission to break through the barriers and get to the root causes that enable our nation’s maternal health crisis to persist. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the United States Senate has, not only the power, but the responsibility to pass the Momnibus package that will deliver the tools and the resources needed to protect families, and help prevent future tragedies. Inaction will only exacerbate America’s maternal mortality crisis. And so, it’s high time to deliver the legislative solutions that subsist to finally implement the protections that moms of all backgrounds deserve.”  

“The statistics on maternal health in Brooklyn are staggering. It is absolutely unacceptable that Black women are eight times more likely than white women to die from complications in childbirth in this borough, and my number one priority as Brooklyn Borough President is to proactively address this disparity,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I very much appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s work to address this issue at a federal level with evidence-based policies and financial resources. I look forward to working together to make Brooklyn the safest place to give birth in the country.”

Women of color are more than 350% more likely to die in childbirth as other women, and some of the highest rates of Black maternal morbidity are here in Central Brooklyn,” said Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie. “Government must use all the tools at its disposal to address this crisis and improve health outcomes in Black and Brown communities. I’m grateful to Senator Gillibrand for championing Black maternal health in Washington, and look forward to advancing these initiatives at the State level.”

“Maternal mortality is a heartbreaking and preventable cause of death for far too many women in New York City, particularly women of color and low-income women. Passing the Moms Matter Act, the MOMS Act, and the Maternal CARE Act must be a priority for Washington, and I thank Senator Gillibrand for championing these bills at the Federal level. In New York City and Brooklyn, I will continue to be an outspoken advocate to ensure that every woman who goes into childbirth comes out of it alive and healthy with their newborn,” said New York City Council Member Rita Joseph.

“New York Midwives proudly stand with Senator Gillibrand and strongly support her legislations which addresses issues of reproductive justice, birth equity, health disparities, maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and primary care at a time when the availability of women’s reproductive health care providers are decreasing,” said Patricia O. Loftman CNM, LM, MS, FACNM, At-Large BILPOC Midwife, Board- New York Midwives. “Midwifery care has the power to reconcile the abysmal statistics in New York State as it has in other industrialized nations. Senator Gillibrand understands all women deserve a midwife and her legislation will provide access by Black, Brown, and Indigenous women to midwives.

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. In New York City, where nearly half of all births in New York State take place, Black non-Hispanic women are nearly 2.5 times more likely than white women to experience life-threatening complications during childbirth. This disparity transcends income and education status, and cannot be explained away by risk factors such as genetics or lack of health care access. These risks have only grown over the past year, as COVID-19 presents unique risks for pregnant people and their babies. 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.