July 13, 2022

Senators Warren, Markey and Representative Seth Moulton Fight to Save the North Shore Birth Center

Facilities like the North Shore Birth Center are essential to help address maternal mortality and morbidity in low-income communities and for women of color.

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Tom Sands, President of Beverly Hospital, urging him to delay the planned closure of the North Shore Birth Center and to carefully consider alternative options. The lawmakers have asked for a response by August 11, 2022.

Since its opening in 1980, the North Shore Birth Center has provided women in Eastern Massachusetts with a critical alternative to hospital-based labor and delivery services. The midwives at the Center have helped deliver nearly 10,000 babies and continued to help deliver babies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the risks to their health as frontline workers. 

Advocates claim that Beverly Hospital has been starving the facility of resources for years, which has contributed to a decline in staffing. The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), which represents nurses and midwives at the Hospital and Birth Center, negotiated a new contract with the Hospital in May of this year that included raises up to 27% for Birth Center midwives, with the goal of recruiting and retaining staff. 

Beverly Hospital assured the MNA during negotiations that it would not close the Birth Center; yet, eight days after the union approved the contract, the Hospital announced it would close the Birth Center anyway, citing the staffing shortages the new contract was supposed to address. 

“Beverly Hospital’s decision to close the Birth Center almost immediately after reaching a contractual agreement to increase wages for the nurses and midwives that work there casts doubt on whether leadership ever intended to effectuate the negotiated wage increases,” wrote the lawmakers.

The Birth Center is an essential resource for North Shore communities, including women of color who face a disproportionate risk of maternal mortality and morbidity. Black women in the United States are three times as likely and Indigenous women are 2.3 times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.

“At its core, closing the North Shore Birth Center will deny women a choice in birth options and reproductive care, pushing patients away from more affordable, high-quality care into more expensive, hospital-based care,” concluded the lawmakers.

Senator Warren has long fought to lower maternal mortality rates and tackle racial disparities in maternal health outcomes: 

  • In April, Senator Warren introduced the Mamas First Act, vital legislation to address the maternal mortality crisis by expanding Medicaid to include doula, midwifery, and tribal midwifery care.
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren partnered with Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) and joined striking nurses on the picket line.
  • Senator Warren co-sponsored Senator Booker (D-N.J.) and Representative Underwood's Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a series of 12 bills, including Senator Warren’s Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act, to save moms’ lives and end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.
  • In April 2020, Senators Warren and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) released a GAO report underscoring the need to address the maternal mortality crisis. 
  • In February 2021, Senator Warren and Representative Underwood led their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate and House leadership urging the inclusion of provisions of the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act in an upcoming COVID-19 relief package.  
  • Senator Warren is also a co-sponsor of Senator Booker's Black Maternal Health Week Resolution, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act, Senator Booker’s MOMMIES Act, and Senator Richard Durbin's (D-Ill.) Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act.