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“We Can Help Entire Families Flourish”: U.S. Representative Robin Kelly Unveils New Legislation to Fight the Maternal Mortality Crisis

By September 18, 2023No Comments

The CARE for Moms Act Includes Historic Investments to Strengthen Health Care Coverage During and After Pregnancy, Grow and Diversify the Doula Workforce, and Address Underlying Causes of Maternal Mortality

Watch the full event here.

Washington, DC — Today, U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), National Medical Association President Dr. Yolanda Lawson, Maternity Care Coalition’s Sara Jann Heinze, and Vice Chair of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees Dr. Phyllis Dennery joined Protect Our Care to discuss her new legislation, the CARE for Moms Act, which is a comprehensive plan to combat the U.S. maternal mortality crisis. The bill includes critical steps to save lives, including by investing $35 million in state-based grants to improve perinatal care, mandating Medicaid coverage for new moms one year postpartum, extending Medicaid oral health coverage to pregnant and postpartum women, addressing implicit bias in the health care training, increasing and diversifying the doula workforce, and more. 

More than 1,000 women die annually due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth, making the U.S. maternal mortality rate three times higher than other wealthy nations. Black and Native women are at significantly greater risk of facing serious complications. Representative Kelly will introduce the CARE for Moms Act, which takes a multifaceted approach to promote the health of new mothers and their babies and the urgent need to stop the worsening maternal mortality crisis, on September 19. 

“I’m introducing the CARE For Moms Act because moms deserve better, Black moms deserve better,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly, Chair of the CBC Health Braintrust. “When we take care of moms and prioritize prenatal and postpartum care, we can help entire families flourish. The reality is that too many moms, and particularly Black moms, are losing their lives. That’s why I’m pushing for change, supporting providers, and providing resources like mobile units and doulas. My goal is clear: to ensure that every mother has access to the care, empowerment, and resources necessary to be the best moms they can be.”

“The U.S. is lagging as a whole,” said National Medical Association President Dr. Yolanda Lawson. “Our country is faced with a shortage and a misdistribution of the maternal health care workforce which led to maternal health care deserts that are compounded by these hospital closures and closures of these obstetrical units. Then you look at black women in this country who are three to four times more likely to die and the disparity has increased and persisted for over 50 years. We talk about what we need to do to reduce these deaths and this bill is an important, useful, and substantive enhancement to these ongoing efforts to address and decrease maternal deaths.”

“We’re in a moment right now where folks are aware of the issues, and I don’t want us to miss the moment,” said Maternity Care Coalition’s Sara Jann Heinze. “This bill is investing in things that are already happening, work that we already know works that needs more resources. The health of our mothers is really one of the best measures to understand the health of our society, so investing in this work and having a broad-based coalition is important – we all need to be working together on these issues and helping people to understand the issue from multiple lenses.”

“After a premature birth, families face lifelong challenges, including economic, educational, and other things that impact their whole family,” said Vice Chair of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees’ Dr. Phyllis Dennery. “We have 900 maternal deaths each year and 80 percent of these are preventable, which is really a crisis. So I’m looking forward to this bill being passed because it is extremely important to all the mothers and babies in this country.”

“In the wealthiest nation on earth, it is unfathomable that our maternal mortality rate is three times higher than other nations,” said Communications Director for Protect Our Care Anne Shoup. “Our nation’s mothers are dying from fully preventable causes — with especially high risks for Black and Native mothers — and research shows that the problem is only getting worse. By making historic investments to strengthen health care coverage and address underlying causes of maternal mortality, the CARE for Moms Act is a critical step forward to improving the health and safety of families across the nation. We commend Representative Kelly for her leadership on this issue and urge Congress to do everything in its power to pass this legislation to save lives.”