May 25, 2021

Kaine & Murkowski Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Maternal and Infant Mortality, Address Racial Inequities in Maternal Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), both members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Mothers and Newborns Success Act to help reduce the egregious racial inequities in maternal and infant mortality.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2018, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was more than 2.5 times higher than the maternal mortality rate for White women, and the infant mortality rate of babies born to Black women is more than 2.3 times higher than the infant mortality rate of babies born to White women. American Indian/Alaska Native women are more than twice as likely as White women to die as a result of pregnancy or its complications. This legislation will help address these significant inequities by strengthening support for women during and after pregnancy, promoting maternal health research and data collection, and ensuring women are better matched with birthing facilities that meet their specific needs. This legislation is more crucial than ever as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected communities of color. A 2020 research study from the CDC found that pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and admitted to the ICU for COVID-19 infection.

“It’s long past time to address the racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality,” said Kaine. “This legislation is an important step toward ensuring women, particularly women of color, and their newborns are receiving the care and support they deserve.” 

“Inequities in maternal and infant mortality rates in Alaska, particularly in our rural communities, and with Alaska Native women are substantial. The Mothers and Newborns Success Act aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality, ensure that all infants can grow up healthy and safe, and protect women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy,” said Murkowski. “There should be no racial disparities for women seeking maternal and neonatal care, all should have the opportunity to do so safely.” 

The Mothers and Newborns Success Act would: 

  • Codify the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) State Maternal Health Innovation Program and the Supporting Maternal Health Innovation Program to assist states in implementing actions to address disparities in maternal health and improve maternal health outcomes.
  • Establish a pilot program through HRSA to better support women’s health in the postpartum period.
  • Establish a National Maternal Health Research Network at the NIH to support innovative research to reduce maternal mortality and promote maternal health.
  • Support HRSA’s Rural Maternity and Obstetric Management Strategies (RMOMS) Program to improve access to and continuity of obstetrics care in rural communities, including thorough use of telehealth.
  • Establish a public and provider awareness campaign through the CDC to promote awareness of maternal health warning signs and the importance of vaccinations for pregnant women and children.
  • Support CDC’s work to classify birthing facilities based on the level of risk-appropriate maternal and neonatal care to improve care delivery and health outcomes for expectant mothers and their infants.
  • Support CDC’s efforts to implement quality assurance processes to improve the validity of pregnancy checkbox data from death certificates to help provide more accurate data on maternal deaths.  
  • Support CDC’s data collection on maternal attitudes and experiences during the pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum periods as well as efforts to provide technical assistance to states to ensure representation of communities of color in key datasets.

Senator Kaine has long focused his efforts on addressing the Black maternal health crisis. In February, Kaine joined his Senate colleagues in introducing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a collection of bills to address the nation’s maternal health crisis. Kaine has also held several roundtables focused on the issue across Virginia over recent years in Winchester, HamptonOakton, and Lynchburg. In 2018, he cosponsored the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act to create two new grant programs focused on reducing racial disparities in maternal health.  

You can view the full text of the Mothers and Newborns Success Act here

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