While the Black maternal mortality crisis has been a topic over the last century, it has been on heightened alert in recent years due to the overarching health disparities Black women face.
Black women are three to four more times likely to die in childbirth as their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In regards to the Black maternal mortality rate, a list of outlining factors that contribute to this reverse rate across Black women including racism, income inequality and access to preventable healthcare.
On Wednesday Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with his colleague in the House, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), presented a bill which would seek to address this ongoing public health crisis in America. The legislation comes on the heels of Mother’s Day 2019.
The bill, named the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES), will increase Medicaid coverage for postpartum moms to a year after they give birth. The current coverage only extends to two months. The MOMMIES act will also seek to increase access to primary and women’s health care providers, including doula care. It is one of the largest proposals created to address maternal health.
Booker reintroduced the bill to the Senate on Tuesday, while Pressley is expected to present the legislation to her constituents on Wednesday.
In the Senate, the bill was cosponsored by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
“The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impacts the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations,” Pressley said in a released statement. “Maternal justice is about ensuring that every mom-to-be is listened to and treated with dignity and respect during and after childbirth.”
“We simply cannot continue to accept this alarming status quo – we must do something about it and this bill is an important first step,” Booker echoed. “By expanding Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, we can begin to stem the rising tide of maternal mortality and close the egregious racial gaps that exist in maternal and infant health outcomes.”
The bill coincides with the release a new CDC report which states 3 in 5 pregnancy deaths in the U.S. are preventable. Approximately 700 women die yearly in the U.S. because of delivery complications and pregnancy.
Advocate groups led by Black women including the Black Mamas Matters Alliance are in full support of the bill and have often spearheaded efforts on the policy side to address the issue.
Last month, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) introduced the Black Maternal Health Care Caucus along with the efforts of Black Mamas Matters Alliance.
As Booker continues in his campaign for president, the bill signals an important move to directly address maternal mortality and specifically how it affects Black women. Fellow candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have also revealed plans to address the gap in maternal health care for Black women.
The effort will require a full overhaul and commitment of the medical system and will also need to include ways to decrease the systematic injustices Black women face in modern society.