March 10, 2020

March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit fighting for the health of all moms and babies, today expressed its support for a series of bills introduced in the House of Representatives by the Black Maternal Health Caucus to address the nation’s maternal health crisis. 

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, a package of nine bills, aims to fill gaps in existing legislation to improve health outcomes for Black moms who are dying at three to four times the rate of their White counterparts. 

“We commend the Caucus Co-founders and Co-Chairs, Representatives Alma Adams and Lauren Underwood, as well as its members, for playing a galvanizing role to bring greater attention to the health disparities facing Black mothers,” said March of Dimes President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart.  “Black women are dying at higher rates than all other races, which is unacceptable. Almost two-thirds of maternal deaths are preventable. Now is the time to enact policies that will eliminate disparities and improve health outcomes for women of color.”

“For decades, the U.S. maternal mortality and morbidity rates have gotten worse for all mothers, but especially for Black women whose health outcomes are further compounded by systemic and structural racism,” said Representative Adams. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is an historic piece of legislation that not only fills existing gaps in maternal healthcare, but also works to address pervasive maternal health disparities through solutions that are culturally-congruent and proven effective. The Momnibus provides a new roadmap to ensure our healthcare systems, providers, and society truly make Black maternal and infant health a priority.”

“This legislation says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter,” Adams added. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to unveil a comprehensive package that tackles one of the greatest public health crises of our time.”

“While maternal mortality rates continue to drop around the world, they are rising in the U.S., leaving behind devastated families and children who will grow up never knowing their moms. This crisis demands urgent attention and serious action to save the lives of Black mothers and all women across the county,” said Representative Underwood. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus is a sweeping effort to address our nation’s maternal mortality crisis through effective, evidence-based, and culturally competent solutions. I commend Stacey Stewart for her leadership and March of Dimes for its guidance in developing the Momnibus and support of the legislative package. The time to end preventable maternal mortality and close racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes is long overdue. With the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, we can work together to solve this crisis right now. New moms and their children and families deserve nothing less.”

Significantly, the Momnibus will help end preventable maternal mortality and close racial and ethnic disparities in these specific ways:

  • Moms MATTER Act – Establishes a Maternal Mental and Behavioral Health Task Force to improve mental and behavioral health outcomes for women throughout pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. It also provides $10 million a year over five years to promote innovative approaches to improving maternal health, such as group prenatal and postpartum care programs. Group prenatal care matches pregnant women with similar due dates together in small groups for prenatal care. March of Dimes’ Supportive Pregnancy Care, which is one form of group care, could help more women in more communities across the country through this legislation. 
  • Kira Johnson Act – Provides funding for community-based organizations to support moms with mental health conditions and substance use disorders, as well as addressing social determinants of health (housing, transportation, nutrition, and other factors) and improving health literacy and education. Importantly, it provides funds to support implicit bias training in maternity care settings. March of Dimes is leading the way with a new, compelling implicit bias training for maternal care providers and health systems that will be available this Spring.
  • Data to Save Moms Act - Promotes greater diversity and community engagement in state and Tribal Maternal Mortality Review Committees. It also establishes a Task Force on Maternal Health Data and Quality Measures and will commission a comprehensive study on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among Native American women.
  • Social Determinants for Moms Act - Establishes a task force across agencies and departments to coordinate federal efforts to address social determinants of health for pregnant and postpartum women. It will also provide guidance on Medicaid funding to address social determinants of health for pregnant and postpartum women and study transportation barriers and the effects of air and water pollution on maternal and infant health outcomes, among other things.

In addition to supporting the Momnibus, March of Dimes continues to advocate for Congress to advance a comprehensive maternal health package this session.  In particular, we urge swift passage of the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act of 2019 (HR 4995) and Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019 (HR 4996), which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year. These bills would extend Medicaid coverage for new moms for one year after pregnancy, authorize public health programs such as state-based perinatal quality collaboratives and the Alliance for Maternal Health Innovation, improve care for women in rural areas, and support provider training in implicit bias and culturally competent care.