Advocate for Maternal Health this Mother's Day

Action
By Jenna Barnett 5-09-2019
Photo by Jeremy Paige on Unsplash

In response to rising maternal mortality rates in the U.S., congress has introduced several pieces of legislation in the past several months aimed at saving the lives of women during and immediately after pregnancy. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mich.) — whose paternal grandmother died while giving birth — have unveiled the Healthy MOMMIES Act, and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act.

“It’s a sad fact that it’s more dangerous to have a baby today than it was 25 years ago,” said Rep. Kelly in a press release. Specifically, 700 women die each year in the U.S. from mostly preventable pregnancy-related causes — more than any other developed country in the world.

In a report released Tuesday, the CDC identified that nearly half of these deaths occur during pregnancy (31.3 percent) and on the day of delivery (16.9 percent), while the other half of maternal deaths extend deeper into the 365 days following the child birth. Both proposed pieces of legislation would extend post-partum Medicaid coverage to a full year. The current standard is 60 days.

The CDC also identified the core factors contributing to these deaths as follows:

Community factors – Unstable housing and limited access to transportation
Health facility factors – Limited experience with obstetric emergencies and lack of appropriate
Patient factors – Lack of knowledge of warning signs and nonadherence to medical regimens
Provider factors – Missed or delayed diagnosis and lack of continuity of care
System-level factors – Inadequate access to care and poor case coordination

Understanding these factors is crucial to identifying and implementing solutions. The report’s findings also underscored what many advocates have emphasized for years: Black and Indigenous women are at much higher risk of maternal mortality in the U.S. They are about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related deaths than white women.

Both the MOMMA’s Act and the Healthy MOMMIES Act acknowledge and aim to address these racial disparities.

“The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impact the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations,” said Rep Pressley.

Rep. Pressley believes her legislation could eliminate racial disparities by increasing access to affordable health care, training providers to address racism, and by fostering more “diverse health teams that integrate doulas, midwives, and community health workers.”

In an effort to urge Congress to prioritize maternal health legislation, Sojourners has created a “Mother’s Day Card to Congress,” to be delivered to House and Senate majority leaders after the weekend. Hundreds of people have signed on to the card by using this link to type a brief personalized message.

Jenna Barnett is an Associate Web Editor for Sojourners.

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