The CDC reports that for women older than the age of 30, the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women was four to five times higher than it was for white women. These numbers are stark — and the issue is direly in need of being addressed. 

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020 helps to address this racial and ethnic disparity and must be prioritized within our nation.

Momnibus, sponsored by Black Maternal Health Caucus members, is composed of 12 individuals bills. One of the aims is to improve data collection processes and quality measures to gain a better understanding of the issue. This is crucial to addressing this, as data collection can better inform the nation of just how deeply rooted this may be, but it will also inform about possible solutions.

Some of the solutions currently proposed are funding opportunities for community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women, provide up to one year of postpartum health insurance coverage and grow and diversify the OB/GYN workforce. While just the beginning, these measures are a positive step to transform and advance maternal health equity at a local, regional and national level.

However, the bill goes beyond these measures and invests in maternal health care and support for incarcerated women, women veterans and women with substance abuse disorders. These groups are specifically at risk for maternal-related health complications, and there is a significant lack of data to more fully understand and problem solve how our systems can address and improve health care for these groups.

It is important to understand that health disparities related to maternal health outcomes are not determined by race, but rather by racism, as Dr. Monica McLemore, professor of Nursing at the University of California stated. Systemic, structural racism is at the root of this issue and must be tackled with decisiveness and certainty.

One of the ways to commit to anti-racist work is to center Black women and Black women-led organizations; Momnibus does this. 

Endorsed by more than 190 organizations, the support behind this bill is far-reaching. 

It’s a bill that should not be an argument; those who would say it is unnecessary are refusing to see how structural racism affects women of color, specifically Black women, across our nation.

This is not a new issue. The CDC reports that these disparities have persistent and did not change significantly between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016.

These deaths and harms are preventable. The Maternal Mortality Review Committees suggest that up to 60% or more of deaths could have been prevented by addressing factors at multiple levels.

By advocating for Momnibus, we can begin to address these factors and identify initiatives to actively combat racism in our health care systems.

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