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Congresswoman Robin Kelly

Representing the 2nd District of Illinois


New Bill Looks to Reduce Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates in the U.S.

May 21, 2018
In The News

A new bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives is aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality rates.

Representative Robin Kelly introduced legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives that would give women who are on Medicaid longer periods of coverage to battle outrageously high rates of maternal and infant mortality in the country.

Representative Kelly said that there are already too many women who have died as a result of not having expanded coverage and that families living nightmares shouldn’t have to. The bill is called The Mothers of Offspring Maternal Mortality Awareness (MOMMA) Act and would increase reporting rates of already dismal data that shows maternal mortality rates are ever-rising in the United States.

In the U.S., black women are 243% more likely to die from a pregnancy or childbirth-related cause. Elizabeth Dawes Gay is the steering committee chairwoman of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and said that though there are many questions about why black women in the U.S. are more likely to die from pregnancy or birth-related complications, she believes that a part of the MOMMA Act will be beneficial in bringing those numbers down.

The bill includes the provision for training clinicians to better care for black women and their babies.

Lawmakers claim not to know why the infant and maternal mortality rates in the United States are continuing to increase while the rates in other countries are steadily declining, and the hope is that this act will allow better reporting to bring better data about the reasoning behind deaths.

Rep. Kelly said that the first challenge is finding out exactly why the U.S. has such poor rates so that we can make authentic and data-based steps toward decreasing the rates. Rep. Kelly is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust, and particularly interested in the rising maternal mortality rates women of color are facing.

If the legislation is passed, Medicaid would be expanded to cover women a full year after they give birth. Medicaid offers care to pregnant women, but currently, women are allowed to maintain coverage after only 60 days. They then often end up uninsured, but still in danger zones for postpartum issues. In the U.S., half of the births that happen are covered by Medicaid, so half of the women giving birth often end up with no care just two months postpartum.

Additionally, the bill will encourage healthcare facilities to look at better case management protocols for emergent obstetrics care and will create a committee whose purpose will be to analyze and share best practices for saving lives of new mothers.

Dr. Hal Lawrence is the executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and said that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is unacceptable. As It’s five times higher than in some other first world countries like England, House representatives like Barbara Lee said that we should be leading efforts in the world to create better outcomes for mamas and babies, not be lagging.

The bill was introduced to accompany another act introduced by Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler — the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act.

Other representatives back the bills, sharing birth stories of their own that show even young, healthy, educated and insured women who receive excellent prenatal care suffer from issues postpartum that can leave long-lasting effects (or death) and it’s imperative to make sure those who don’t have such privilege to be as protected as well.

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Robin Kelly



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