On May 8, several congressional Democrats introduced legislation that will directly tackle the rising maternal mortality crisis among Black and Native American women.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the bill, introduced the Healthy MOMMIES Act—short for Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services.
The bill was announced just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report revealing the country's maternal mortality rate continues to rise, and in most cases, the deaths are completely preventable.
According to the CDC, Black and Native American women are three to four times more likely than their white peers to die of pregnancy-related causes, a statistic Pressley finds “unconscionable.”
"It is unacceptable that the United States, the wealthiest country on Earth, has the highest maternal mortality rate [of] any developed nation in the world," Pressley said in a series of tweets.
In addition to providing community-based doulas and pregnancy services, the Healthy MOMMIES Act also includes several provisions addressing the need for expanded medical coverage.
A fact sheet from Pressley's office reveals the legislation plans to expand Medicaid coverage to include a full range of services to ensure people have access to comprehensive care throughout pregnancy, labor and postpartum.
"Maternal justice is about ensuring that every mom-to-be is listened to and treated with dignity and respect during and after childbirth," Pressley said in a press release. "The Healthy MOMMIES Act would do just that, by promoting a community-based, holistic approach to maternal care that recognizes current disparities in healthcare and critical environmental factors impacting communities."
In the same press release, Booker said we must stop accepting the deaths of Black mothers as normal.
"We simply cannot continue to accept this alarming status quo—we must do something about it and this bill is an important first step," Booker said.
“Our bill takes on an important and meaningful step towards addressing these alarming statistics by extending and enhancing the care pregnant women receive under Medicaid... Medicaid now covers almost half of all births in the United States. It's a powerful tool to use to improve maternal health overall, particularly for women of color, low-income women, and other underserved populations,” he added.
Like Booker, Gillibrand and Harris are also running for president.
(Photos from left: Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images, Ethan Miller/Getty Images)