News and Notes

What you need to know about the Black Maternal Health Momnibus

On March 10, 2020, the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced this historic legislative package to address the maternal health crisis in the United States. Our country has the worst maternal death rates in the developed world and the numbers are even worse for African American women, who are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.

“The bottom line is that in this nation of so much wealth and prosperity, there is no reason that African American women should be dying at rates three times that of white women in pregnancy and childbirth,” U.S. Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama stated in a press release on the Momnibus package. Sewell is a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and a co-sponsor of the bill.  The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is led by Congresswomen Lauren Underwood and Alma S. Adams in the House and Senator Kamala Harris in the Senate.

A Closer Look at the Black Maternal Health Momnibus

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 seeks to address every aspect of the Black maternal health crisis. The legislation would do the following:

  • Make critical investments in housing, transportation, and nutrition — social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes
  • Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women.
  • Study the unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and invest in VA maternity care coordination.
  • Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce so moms, no matter where they live, can access quality maternal health care
  • Improve data collection processes to better understand and address the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States
  • 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 health insurance coverage for every mom.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus has been endorsed by more than 90 organizations. Those groups include Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Planned Parenthood, and Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Maternal Health and COVID-19

Public health officials tracking the coronavirus have found that, in several cities, African Americans are dying from COVID-19 at higher rates – yet another reminder of racial health disparities in our country.

Furthermore, the pandemic is a particularly fearful time for expectant mothers – especially Black expectant mothers. To prevent the spread of the virus, hospitals have limited who can be in the delivery room with mom. This means Black mothers may not have partners, doulas, or family to advocate for them if doctors ignore their symptoms.

When the COVID-19 crisis is under control, high maternal mortality rates will continue unless policymakers take action.

“We are in a crisis, especially in Alabama, which has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the nation,” Sewell stated. “We have an opportunity here to support our families, moms and babies by passing these critically important investments in women’s health care.”

By Sara Holland

Staff Writer

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