This post was originally published on Afro

By Deborah Bailey

The concerns of pregnant women and Black mothers across the United States are being heard on Capitol Hill. More than $1 billion in historic maternal health provisions have been included in the House of Representatives’ Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill currently working its way through the legislative process. 

“The maternal mortality rate has risen in the United States over the past three decades,” said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who spearheaded a press briefing this week to announce the inclusion of critical funding for maternal health initiatives that have been included in the historic $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Reconciliation Bill, also known as the Human Infrastructure Act.

“We have a health care system saddled with bias and racism disproportionately killing Black and Indigenous people. The problem is getting worse,” Booker said. 

Recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) data confirms Black women are three to five times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than White women. 

Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced key provisions that his committee recently approved for inclusion in the Build Back Better Reconciliation Bill.

Pallone said Medicaid expansion for new mothers will be a game changer. “New moms will have Medicaid for a full year postpartum,” he said. 

“You know what happens, that as income rises, women in some states are just thrown off Medicaid during that postpartum year and that’s not right,” Pallone said.  

Representative Lauren Underwood (D-OH)

Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-OH), co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, has championed what is known as the “Momnibus Bill” for months with Rep. Gwen Moore (D- Wis.), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D- Del.) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) who also participated in the announcement. 

The Congresswomen provided additional details about the $1 billion worth of provisions for pregnant persons and new mothers approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently for inclusion in the Build Back Better Reconciliation Act

  1. Financial Investments in social determinants of maternal health such as housing transportation and nutrition  
  2. Resources specifically for community-based organizations working to improve maternal health outcomes and promote equity 
  3. Investments and programs to grow and diversify the perinatal workforce
  4. Funding for maternal mental health equity grant health programs
  5. Maternal health research at Minority Serving Institutions
  6. Health professional schools to address the impact of climate change related maternal and infant health risks
  7. Representative community engagement in maternal mortality review committees
  8. Bias training for healthcare professionals
  9. Strengthening federal maternal health programs at the CDC and NIH 
  10.  Expanding access to digital tools to promote maternal health equity

Pallone cautioned that maternal health supporters need to be vigilant to ensure the $1 billion that has now been included in the {Reconciliation Package} doesn’t get cut from the final bill before it comes up for a passage by the full House of Representatives. 

“It’s really important that everyone involved insist that these provisions that affect maternal health don’t become part of that trimming down,” Pallone said.  

“What we’ve talked about is not a huge amount of money in the overall bill. What’s happening today is important to get the word out,” Pallone added. 

Underwood, echoed the need for people to understand the historic nature of provisions crafted to address long standing disparities faced by new mothers and pregnant persons of color in America for years. 

“We want to raise our voices now to make sure that people understand what’s in the Build Back Better Act. We have the opportunity to save lives and that’s what we’re here for,” Underwood said. 

 “The cost of inaction is too high”, said Underwood, a registered nurse. “We must do everything in our power and put mommas first,” she concluded.  

The Century Foundation, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Reproductive Rights and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, support the Black Maternal Health “Momnibus” agenda and are working collaboratively to support the maternal health measures included in the Momnibus legislation.

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