The Black Maternal Health Momnibus: A Historic Legislative Package Aims to Reduce Maternal Risks

Illustration for article titled The Black Maternal Health Momnibus: A Historic Legislative Package Aims to Reduce Maternal Risks
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Giving birth has always put women at risk, but for women giving birth in America, it has become a deadly proposition, as the United States has become the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world. For black women, the risk has been rightfully classified as a crisis, as black expectant mothers are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, an epidemic that has only increased over the past 30 years.


“While maternal mortality rates continue to drop around the world, they are rising in the U.S., leaving behind devastated families and children who will grow up never knowing their moms,” said Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Il.), co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, in a statement obtained by The Root. “This crisis demands urgent attention and serious action to save the lives of Black mothers and all women across the county.”

On Tuesday, Reps. Underwood, Ayanna Pressley (D-Ma.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca.), and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the nine-bill “Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020” (pdf), groundbreaking legislation intended “to comprehensively improve maternal health outcomes and close racial disparities in outcomes.”

“Black women across the country are dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications at astounding rates- and the disparity transcends income and education levels,” said Sen. Harris in a statement. “It is critical that the federal government work with states, local health providers, and mothers and their families to address the crisis and save lives. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus will address many barriers to care so we can improve maternal health outcomes and help ensure women—especially Black women—have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”

Endorsed by 93 leading maternal health and health care organizations including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus promises to “build on existing maternal health legislation by filling gaps through the nine new bills to comprehensively address every dimension of the Black maternal health crisis.”

“The Momnibus, put forward by the Black Maternal Health Caucus, has the potential to be transformative for Black maternal health because it goes beyond addressing maternal death and helps to advance maternal health equity,” said Angela Aina, Interim Executive Director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “Thank you to the Black Maternal Health Caucus for prioritizing the needs of those most impacted by the maternal health crisis in the United States.”


According to a release, the nine individuals bills proposed in the legislation (pdf) will:

  1. Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition;
  2. Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women;
  3. Comprehensively study the unique maternal health risks facing women veterans and invest in VA maternity care coordination;
  4. Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives maternity care and support from people she can trust;
  5. Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it;
  6. Invest in maternal mental health care and substance use disorder treatments;
  7. Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated women;
  8. Invest in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas; and
  9. Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and continuity of health insurance coverage from pregnancy through labor and delivery and up to 1 year postpartum.

“The Momnibus provides a new roadmap to ensure our healthcare systems, providers, and society truly make Black maternal and infant health a priority. This legislation says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter,” said Rep. Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to unveil a comprehensive package that tackles one of the greatest public health crises of our time.”

Per the release:

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus makes investments in social determinants of health, community-based organizations, the growth and diversification of the perinatal workforce, improvements in data collection and quality measures, digital tools like telehealth, and innovative payment models. In addition to direct efforts to improve Black maternal health outcomes, the Momnibus focuses on high-risk populations, including women veterans, incarcerated women, and Native Americans.


“The time to end preventable maternal mortality and close racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes is long overdue,” said Rep. Underwood. “With the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, we can work together to solve this crisis right now. New moms and their children and families deserve nothing less.”

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



One thing to keep in mind when considering these policies is that the cases being recorded isn’t “deaths during childbirth,” but rather “deaths associated with pregnancy and childbirth.” This means that stuff like heart attacks some time after the birth but plausibly attributable to the stress of pregnancy and childbirth and diabetic shock attributable to the nutritional needs of pregnancy make up the vast majority of cases and thus difference. This suggests that most of the disparity is due to differences in population health, particularly obesity, and also day-to-day healthcare, such as checkups that can flag potential health issues like blood pressure and weight and services like diabetes counseling. The BBC Behind the Stats podcast went into some detail for the British statistics.