Kamala Harris Reintroduces Bill Addressing the Black Maternal Healthcare Crisis

Photo: Paul Morigi (AP Images for The Justice Roundtable)

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act on Wednesday, her 2018 bill that seeks to address the ongoing black maternal health crisis.

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” Harris said in a statement to The Root. “My Maternal CARE Act will establish implicit bias training throughout the medical profession and help ensure that women—especially Black women—have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”

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According to Harris, the United States is one of only thirteen countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality is worse than it was 25 years ago. Additionally, black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts and twice as likely to succumb to life-threatening, pregnancy-related complications.

To combat this crisis, the Maternal CARE Act proposes the following:

  • It will create a new $25 million grant program that will directly support evidence-based implicit bias training for medical professionals to reduce bias in judgment or behavior as it pertains to patients who are black women.
  • It will allocate $125 million to provide the tools and resources necessary to ensure culturally competent care, properly identify high-risk pregnancies, and create pregnancy medical home programs. Most importantly, it will incentivize maternal health care providers to dramatically improve the services they provide to pregnant women.
  • It will direct the National Academy of Medicine to implement and incorporate bias recognition in clinical skills testing.

Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren—each of whom is also a 2020 presidential candidate—are cosponsoring the bill, in addition to 12 other U.S. senators.

“We cannot address the black maternal health crisis facing this country until we address racial disparities in healthcare. The Maternal CARE Act will confront the persistent biases in our health system to ensure Black women have equal access to the quality pre- and post-natal care they deserve,” Congresswoman Alma Adams said in a statement. As the founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus she introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. “I thank Senator Harris for her leadership in the Senate and look forward to continuing to work together to address this public health crisis.”

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The list of organizations supporting this legislation is lengthy and includes the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Black Women Birthing Justice and Black Women’s Health Imperative.

“We applaud the collaborative efforts of Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Alma Adams in the reintroduction of the Maternal CARE Act,” Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH, Co-Director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, said in a statement.

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“Community-based models of maternity care that is grounded in birth and reproductive justice are effective approaches in advancing optimal maternal health outcomes for Black women and their families. Most importantly, we commend the inclusion of perinatal health workers and Doulas within the Pregnancy Medical Home model to represent the communities most affected by maternal health disparities.”

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About the author

Jay Connor

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.