The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021

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Photo courtesy of abcardio.org

It’s no secret that the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth disproportionately impact women of color. In 2019 the CDC reported that Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. 

Year after year, reports have made quite clear that Black and Latina women are underserved in terms of maternal medical care. The lack of adequate care has led to a devastating maternal health crisis, with women of color suffering from fatal flaws in the healthcare system. 

This is why it’s so important and so monumental that democratic lawmakers recently introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 — a series of bills that intends to rectify the significant health inequities that Black mothers face in America. 

The bill has the ultimate goal of ensuring that women of color receive the same level of medical care that every woman should be entitled to when delivering a baby and during the delicate postpartum period. Research shows that minority women, especially Black women, face unequal access to care, implicit bias, and structural racism within the healthcare system. Those disparities, combined with potential underlying health conditions, may lead to deadly complications during and after pregnancy. 

Maternal fatalities are often preventable, but without fair and thorough medical care and access to effective health treatments for all women, moms will continue dying.

According to the Black Maternal Health Caucus website, “in the richest nation on earth, moms are dying at the highest rate in the developed world — and the rate is rising. For as dire as the situation is for all women and birthing people, the crisis is most severe for Black moms, who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of their white counterparts. Native Americans are more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes. One study found that in New York City, Hispanic birthing people experienced severe maternal morbidity at 1.8 times the rate of non-Hispanic white birthing people.”

These statistics are not okay. Women — all women — deserve access to quality and equitable maternity care and the respect and support they need. And too few women are actually receiving the level of care necessary to ensure their safety and wellness during this important time in their lives. 

Enter the Black Maternal Health Caucus and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, which includes a series of 12 bills aimed at saving moms’ lives and ending racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act was introduced by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, Congresswoman Alma Adams, Senator Cory Booker, and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. 

The omnibus bill is set up to comprehensively address every aspect of the maternal health crisis in America. Meaning the bill really wants to dig deep into the divide of maternal healthcare and right all of the wrongs in terms of how women of color are treated in the healthcare system.

Proposals in the bill include, but are not limited to:

  • greater investment in making the prenatal workforce more diverse 
  • funding for training programs on bias, racism, and discrimination to ensure that workers are adequately equipped to respond to the needs of people of color during and after childbirth
  • funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes
  • support for moms with maternal mental health conditions
  • promotion and funding for maternal vaccinations
  • introduction of innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care for all women
  • investing in digital tools to educate women and provide access to quality medical care in underserved communities

The Momnibus bill was introduced this past February, and now there is hope that the newly Democratic Senate and White House will pass the bill, which was far more challenging with the last administration. 

Senator Cory Booker is optimistic. “I know of the White House’s commitment to issues of racial equity and to address the severe gaps we have in health care provision and outcomes in this country,” he told The Hill. 

Time will tell if this bill is passed, but one thing is for sure, it is an essential step in protecting women of color and prevent more unnecessary maternal deaths.