Maloney urges action on Black maternal health disparities

Six Democratic congresswomen are urging President Joe Biden and congressional leaders to address racial disparities in maternal health as part of upcoming legislation, such as the proposed reconciliation package, slated to include many of Biden’s social and climate agenda items.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and five of her colleagues drafted letters to Biden, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, arguing that the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the maternal health crisis.


What You Need To Know

  • In letters to Biden, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and her colleagues urge action to combat black maternal health disparities
  • Black women in America are three to four times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than their white counterparts, according to data from the CDC   
  • Biden called for spending roughly $3 billion “to improve maternal health” as part of his American Families Plan, money the lawmakers say could make a difference if included in future legislation 

“It is imperative that the federal government make further comprehensive investments to improve maternal health outcomes and eliminate maternal health disparities for Black people,” they wrote.“The economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic—including increased food and housing insecurity—have worsened preexisting health disparities for Black people,” they continued.

Black women in America are three to four times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than their white counterparts, according to data from the CDC.

The statistics are worse in New York City, where Black women were 12 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues, according to data from 2006-2010.

Adam Searing, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, says there are several reasons for this gap.

“Black mothers often don’t get the same kind of care in hospitals as white mothers do, so they’re getting a lesser standard of care. They’re often treated differently by doctors – and that’s just straight-out racism,” he said.

In the letters, the lawmakers note that Biden called for spending roughly $3 billion “to improve maternal health” as part of his American Families Plan. They say that if that sort of funding is included in forthcoming legislation, it would be possible to permanently extend year-long postpartum Medicaid coverage as well as help pay for part of the sweeping “Momnibus” plan.

The so-called “Momnibus,” which was reintroduced earlier this year by members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus on Capitol Hill, aims to cut into the racial disparities. Among other things, the legislation calls for investments in housing and nutrition, mental health support programming, plus help for incarcerated moms and improved data collection on health inequities.

The co-chairs of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina and Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois, are among signers of the letters to Biden, Pelosi and Schumer.

Earlier this week, Democrats on the Senate Budget committee agreed to a $3.5 trillion framework to address many of Biden’s agenda items not included in the bipartisan infrastructure proposal, including those from the American Families Plan. The details of what would be included in that package are still being ironed out.