Warren, Underwood, Lawmakers Reintroduce Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act to Combat Maternal Mortality and Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) led Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in reintroducing the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act to improve research and data collection, safeguard the health of pregnant and postpartum individuals, and ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not exacerbate poor maternal health outcomes in the United States.
The United States has faced a maternal mortality and morbidity crisis since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Black, American Indian, and Alaskan Native women are two to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women; and the maternal mortality rate for Hispanic women is rising. In addition to the pandemic, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which disproportionately affects communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities, has exacerbated maternal health challenges.
Originally introduced by Senator Warren and Representative Underwood in 2020, the legislation aims to confront the structural racism that drives disparities in maternal health outcomes by prioritizing racial equity and tasking the federal government with improving the delivery of and access to safe and respectful maternity care.
“Our nation’s maternal mortality and morbidity crisis was already shameful, and it’s only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Our bill dedicates resources to help the federal government address racial disparities in our health care system and make sure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic.”
“A strong public health approach, including lessons learned from the pandemic, is critical to protecting the health and safety of moms during current and future public health emergencies,” said Representative Lauren Underwood. “I joined Senator Warren in introducing the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act to confront our maternal health crisis head on and save moms’ lives. This legislation is an essential part of my Momnibus, and we must pass the full package immediately.”
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic created increased risks for maternal mortality and morbidity. These risks disproportionality impact communities of color—that’s wrong and we need to address this head on by helping individuals, especially people of color, access excellent health care,” said Senator Tina Smith. “That requires bold action to root out systemic racism, injustice and inequalities in health care and beyond. This bill is an important step in making sure pregnant women get better support and are included in the federal government’s coronavirus public health response.”
“The United States is facing a maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Indigenous communities and has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Cory Booker. “I am proud to fight for this legislation that would help improve health outcomes for mothers and infants across our country, especially in historically underserved communities.”
“The pandemic shone a bright light on our country’s existing maternal mortality and morbidity crisis,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “The Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act will utilize data collection and put new resources into monitoring the effects of COVID-19 on maternal health in order to improve health outcomes. This bill is important to safeguarding those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and improving maternal care in New York and throughout the country.”
“Protecting the health and wellbeing of pregnant people must always be a public health priority,” said Karen Stone, Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The COVID-19 public health emergency highlighted how our health care system still does not adequately meet the needs of pregnant people and introduced yet another threat to maternal health. These concerns are worse for Black women and people, who are already more likely to die from pregnancy related causes and more likely to contract the virus. We thank Senator Warren and Representative Underwood for working to address our abysmal maternal mortality rate and their commitment to always protecting pregnant people – especially during public health emergencies.”
“The Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act is a crucial part of making sure that we take lessons learned from COVID to help pregnant and postpartum people in future health emergencies,” said Lisa Shapiro, Senior Advisor for Strategy and Children’s Policy at Families USA. “The maternal mortality rate was a national shame before the pandemic, particularly among Black women, and it’s only gotten worse. Families USA is proud to support this bill, and all efforts by Senator Warren, Representative Underwood and their colleagues, to make sure pregnant women and new moms can live their healthiest lives.”
“Pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery can’t be ‘paused’ during a pandemic, and neither should the vital, respectful, responsive perinatal care a mom and her baby need and deserve,” said Heidi Murkoff, founder of the What to Expect Project and author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. “Yet the gaps in our already inequitable maternal healthcare system have only widened during the COVID-19 crisis, letting far too many moms - especially Black, AI/AN and Latina moms - fall through the cracks, with devastating, lasting effects on their physical and mental health. That’s unacceptable and that’s why the What to Expect Project and I are so grateful to Senator Warren and Representative Underwood for introducing the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, which will ensure that a continuum of wraparound maternal healthcare, resources and services will support and nurture moms during this and all future public health emergencies and other crises. Because maternal health is the foundation of a healthy future for all of us.”
"Pregnant people continue to experience devastating and disproportionately poor outcomes such as maternal death and near death experiences due to COVID-19," said Yuliya Labko, MSN, CNM, Policy Director, March for Moms. "The pandemic highlighted our lack of a family centered model of care as well as the lack of a robust response for at risk groups like pregnant individuals. Senator Warren and Representative Underwood continue to listen to mothers and families to improve outcomes for all. Their introduction of this much needed legislation to improve the public health response to address the maternal morbidity and mortality rates in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial in prevention of poor maternal health outcomes. March for Moms is proud to support this legislation."
"We commend Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Lauren Underwood for introducing the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, which will dedicate resources to combat the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Stacey Y. Brayboy, March of Dimes Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs. "Before the pandemic, the United States was facing a maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacted women of color. These disparities that pregnant and lactating women of color face have been exacerbated by COVIA-19. Data has down that pregnant women are disproportionately impacted by the virus than nonpregnant women - impacting pregnant Latina and Black women at significantly higher rates than white women. It is imperative that the needs of pregnant and lactating women are not overlooked during COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. We applaud the introduction of this bill that includes policies to better respond to the needs of pregnant and lactating women of color."
The Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act dedicate resources to:
- Improve Data Collection, Research, and Surveillance Initiatives. The bill requires the CDC to coordinate, collect, and publicly post data related to COVID-19 and pregnancy disaggregated by race, ethnicity, primary language, disability status, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, insurance status, and state and tribal location. The bill also authorizes funding for CDC's pregnancy surveillance programs and the National Institutes of Health's research programs. It also mandates CDC tribal consultation and confer with urban Indian organizations, in collaboration with the Indian Health Service.
- Improve Public Health Information and Communication for Pregnant People. The bill directs the CDC to undertake a robust public health education effort aimed at informing pregnant and postpartum people, their employers, and their providers about the latest evidence-based health information. It also requires the Secretary of Labor to issue an emergency temporary standard for pregnant workers and all workers.
- Ensure Lasting Maternal Health Care and Birthing Experience Improvements. The bill defines anti-racist, culturally congruent, and respectful maternity care and seeks to improve the provision of this type of care. It creates a Task Force on Birthing Experience and Safe, Respectful, Responsive, and Empowering Maternity Care During Pandemics and Other Public Health Emergencies to develop federal recommendations to ensure the provision of quality, nondiscriminatory maternity care, promote positive birthing experiences, and improve maternal health outcomes during the COVID-19 public health emergency and future public health emergencies. It also mandates a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency to assess the delivery of maternal care during the pandemic and make recommendations for future pandemic preparedness and response related to maternal care.
This legislation is also endorsed by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March of Dimes, What to Expect Project, Families USA, Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Partnership for Women and Families, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, Every Mother Counts, March for Moms, and the National Birth Equity Collective.
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