We Need to Address Our Nation's Urgent Maternal Health Crisis
When a crisis like coronavirus (COVID-19) erupts, it puts a further strain on ongoing public health and social issues. As the Guttmacher Institute points out “the specific risk to pregnant women and their infants is not yet clear, but these groups are often particularly vulnerable to infectious disease threats. Therefore, many experts say an enhanced focus on primary prevention for pregnant women is warranted.”
Unfortunately, the current state of maternal health in our country already isn’t so great, especially for Black women and Native families and communities. MomsRising member, Alia, who shares:
“That’s the moment I thought I was going to die. I was too far gone to feel fear, but I did feel an overriding sense of regret. What a shame, I thought, that we’ll never get to raise those beautiful children together. What a shame that my children, whom I already love so much, will never know their mother.”
Like too many Black moms, Alia almost lost her life to childbirth. Alia survived, but too many moms in our nation do not. Every person giving birth deserves as safe and healthy of an experience as possible and should have the opportunity to watch their child grow up and thrive. Every child should have a chance to have their mother by their side.
Right now, the United States is the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world, with major racial disparities where Black women lose their lives at 3 to 4 times more than the rate of white women due to maternity-related causes, independent of age, economic background, or education. This is a fact that has done unchanged for several decades.
Kira Dixon-Johnson, for example, was in excellent health with no pre-existing conditions when on April 12, 2016, she delivered a healthy baby boy. Within 24 hours, however, Kira would lose her life after bleeding internally for over ten hours due to a lacerated bladder. For ten hours her pain and her voice were ignored. For ten hours her family begged for medical intervention to no avail. Kira’s death was preventable and her story illustrates a tragic reality for too many Black moms in our country. Racial disparities in care are needlessly costing lives, and sending babies home without their moms.
This is why we need YOUR support to get the Black Maternal Health Momnibus passed by Congress. This packet of legislation takes urgent, serious action to end this crisis by building on existing legislation in Congress to comprehensively address every dimension of America’s maternal health crisis.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is composed of nine individual bills sponsored by members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and Senator Kamala Harris. The legislation will:
- Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition;
- Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women;
- Comprehensively study the unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and invest in VA maternity care coordination;
- Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives maternity care and support from people she can trust;
- Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it;
- Invest in maternal mental health care and substance use disorder treatments;
- Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated women;
- Invest in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas;
- Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and continuity of health insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to 1 year postpartum.
Moms should go home and watch their children and families thrive. If we’re going to save our moms, we need everyone to be a part of the solution.
And we know that right now, hospitals and healthcare systems are already overburdened and the Coronavirus outbreak may get worse before it gets better. During this time, it’s important to take care of our most vulnerable populations, including pregnant and birthing patients. Bills like the Momnibus packet will help us to do this, and also set up the foundations we need to address future health crisis impacting our communities.
Together we are a powerful voice in the movement to save moms.