January 28, 2020

In testimony before Congress today, March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit fighting for the health of all moms and babies, again warned lawmakers that the state of maternal and infant health in the U.S. is getting worse, urging them to immediately address the crisis with comprehensive policy actions.

March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart told members of the House Education & Labor Subcommittee’s Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee and Workforce Protections Subcommittee that the U.S. is among the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth.

“Two babies die every hour in the U.S. and one woman dies every 12 hours as a result of pregnancy complications,” Stewart said, adding “the state of maternal health mirrors that of infants born too soon.” She explained that outcomes are getting worse and those worsening outcomes are driven by disparities.

Each year, 700 women die from pregnancy complications and for every maternal death, another 70 women suffer life-threatening health challenges. Stewart said the threat is especially acute for women of color who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white peers. These disparities were also highlighted in the 2019 March of Dimes Report Card, which showed the nation’s preterm birth rate rose for the fourth year in a row to 10 percent. Infants of color and those born in the southeastern U.S. are much more likely to be born early.

“It’s not fine that two moms die every day due to pregnancy complications,” Stewart said. “It’s not fine that babies of color die at rates far higher than white babies. It’s not fine that more babies are being born too soon.”

Stewart called on Congress to take the following actions to address the nation’s maternal and infant health crisis:

  • Ensure women have access to comprehensive and affordable health care before, during, and after pregnancy, and guaranteeing her newborn has the same from birth.
  • Protect the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with preexisting conditions, guarantees coverage for maternity care.
  • Create a new special enrollment period for pregnancy as outlined in the Healthy MOMS Act to ensure all pregnant women have access to care
  • Protect families from surprise bills by simplifying the process for enrolling newborns in a family’s health plan after birth.
  • Strengthen the Affordable Care Act’s requirements that health plans cover evidence-based, preventive services for women and infants without cost-sharing, and ensure they receive those services by advancing the Primary and Behavioral Health Care Access Act
  • Guarantee that new moms, no matter their profession, have break time and a place to express breastmilk when returning to work.

To read Stewart’s written testimony, click here.