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The MOMMIES Act Will Address The Maternal Mortality Crisis In The US

A few days before Mother's Day, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley introduced legislation in the Senate and House that addresses the maternal mortality crisis in the United States. The bill, titled the Maximizing Outcomes for Moms through Medicaid Improvement and Enhancement of Services (MOMMIES) Act, strives to extend Medicaid for women for a year after they give birth. Currently, Medicaid only covers postpartum women for two months.

In the United States, nearly 700 women die each year due to delivery complications and pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which adds that more than half of these fatalities are preventable. The bill also addresses the racial disparities that are prevalent in maternal fatalities. The CDC has reported that the risk of death due to pregnancy-related causes is three to four times greater for black mothers than white mothers.

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Co-directors Elizabeth Dawes Gay and Angela Doyinsola Aina of the group Black Mamas Matter Alliance have backed the bill, noting in a joint press release that the bill focuses on "services that are proven to positively impact maternal health outcomes for black women," such as the use of midwives, doulas, and holistic birth workers.

Pressley says that the legislation acknowledges the racial disparities in healthcare and focuses on the problem by providing a community-based approach. "The lived experiences of Black women demonstrate how racism and trauma directly impact the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities for generations," she said. "Maternal justice is about ensuring that every mom-to-be is listened to and treated with dignity and respect during and after childbirth."

The measure also extends Medicaid coverage, which finances 43 percent of all births in the US. The bill would guarantee pregnant and postpartum women full Medicaid coverage. Medicaid, a state-based system, provides coverage for mothers below individual income levels, yet benefits and eligibility vary from state to state.

"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 stated. "By expanding Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, we can begin to stem the rising tide of maternal mortality and close the egregious racial gaps that exist in maternal and infant health outcomes."

A USA Today investigation of maternal mortality revealed that Booker's home state of New Jersey ranks fifth in the US in terms of the highest maternal mortality rate. According to Pressley and Booker, 16 organizations, including the March of Dimes and Every Mother Counts, have endorsed the bill.

"The Act takes a comprehensive approach, going beyond putting a band-aid on a broken system, by enhancing available support services and filling gaps in the system that lead to poor health outcomes," said Christy Turlington Burns, who is the founder and CEO of Every Mother Counts, in a statement.

RELATED: Postpartum Hemorrhage Deemed One Of The Most Common Cause Of Maternal Mortality In Developing Countries

The legislation strives to expand access to doula care and develop a Maternity Care Home project that would center on a patient-targeted model of maternity care. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, California Senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren are all cosponsoring the bill. Earlier this year, Harris introduced a Senate resolution that would make April 11-17 Black Maternal Health Week.

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