May 22, 2019

Harris Reintroduces Legislation Addressing Black Maternal Mortality Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act, legislation to address persistent biases and shortcomings in our nation’s medical system that have contributed to the ongoing crisis in Black maternal mortality.

The United States is one of only thirteen countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality is now worse than it was 25 years ago. For Black women, the risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes is three to four times higher than that of white women. Further, Black women are twice as likely to suffer from life-threatening pregnancy complications.

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” said Harris. “My Maternal CARE Act will establish implicit bias training throughout the medical profession and help ensure that women—especially Black women—have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC).

“We cannot address the black maternal health crisis facing this country until we address racial disparities in healthcare. The Maternal CARE Act will confront the persistent biases in our health system to ensure Black women have equal access to the quality pre – and post-natal care they deserve,” said Congresswoman Adams, founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “I thank Senator Harris for her leadership in the Senate and look forward to continuing to work together to address this public health crisis.”

The Maternal CARE Act:

  • Creates a new $25 million program to address racial bias in maternal health care. The new grant program will be directed to medical schools, nursing schools, and other health professional training programs to support evidence-based implicit training that will improve care for Black women by reducing bias in judgment or behavior.

 

  • Allocates $125 million to identify high-risk pregnancies, and provide mothers with the culturally competent care and resources they need. The new grant program will help states develop and carry out pregnancy medical home programs. These programs improve care by incentivizing maternal health care providers to deliver integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers and reduce adverse maternal health outcomes, maternal deaths, and racial health disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity.

 

  • Helps medical schools incorporate bias recognition in clinical skills testing by directing the National Academy of Medicine to study and make recommendations.

Supporters of the legislation include the American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Black Women Birthing Justice, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for Reproductive Rights, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Commonsense Childbirth - National Perinatal Task Force, Every Mother Counts, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, March of Dimes, National Association to Advance Black Birth, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Black Midwives Alliance, National Health Law Program, National Partnership for Women & Families, National WIC Association, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, WomenHeart, and 1,000 Days.

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is proud to support the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act,” said Ted Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., president, ACOG. “We strongly believe that every woman should receive the high quality affordable care she needs, regardless of her zip code or the color of her skin, and are committed to the goal of eliminating preventable maternal deaths.  Achieving this goal requires that physicians – and all clinicians – eliminate implicit bias in health care, and we see great potential to improve the delivery and quality of care for women through pregnancy medical homes, two key components of this important legislation. ACOG thanks Sen. Harris and Rep. Adams for recognizing this important problem and for their leadership in helping improve outcomes for pregnant women.”

“We applaud the collaborative efforts of Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Alma Adams in the reintroduction of the Maternal CARE Act,” said Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH, Co-Director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “Community-based models of maternity care that is grounded in birth and reproductive justice are effective approaches in advancing optimal maternal health outcomes for Black women and their families. Most importantly, we commend the inclusion of perinatal health workers and Doulas within the Pregnancy Medical Home model to represent the communities most affected by maternal health disparities.”

In addition to Harris, the Maternal CARE Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

For a full list of supportive statements, click here.

For further background, click here.

For full bill text, click here. 

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