Newly Proposed ‘Momnibus Act’ Aims to Protect Black Women’s Maternal Health

Supermajority Education Fund

March 13, 2020

The Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced a new legislative package of bills called the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act on Tuesday. The nine new bills, which are sponsored by Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-NC) in the House and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the Senate, seek to improve maternal healthcare outcomes and close racial disparities in those outcomes nationwide.

The United States currently has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world, with 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The numbers are even starker when broken down by demographically; Black American women are three times more likely to die during or in the weeks after childbirth than white women. The Momnibus Act specifically focuses on addressing those disparities, which stem from a variety of factors that include racial disparities in access to health insurance, restricted access of some pregnant women to prenatal care, and medical racism.

“For decades, the U.S. maternal mortality and morbidity rates have gotten worse for all mothers, but especially for Black women whose health outcomes are further compounded by systemic and structural racism,” said Rep. Adams said in a statement published on Monday. “This legislation says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter.”

Members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus stressed the importance of better data collection when it comes to the state of maternal health in the United States in their statement announcing the legislation. For example, The Data to Save Moms Act would create a Task Force on Maternal Health Data and Quality Measures. 

Among the other bills that make up the Momnibus Act are those that address structural issues that contribute to existing maternal healthcare disparities, including issues like safe and affordable housing and access to reliable transportation and nutritional services. The bills also provide funding for community-based organizations working on bettering maternal health outcomes while also addressing treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorders in the community.

In addition to concentrating on improving maternal health for Black women, the bill also focuses on other vulnerable populations like Native Americans, veterans, and incarcerated pregnant people. One of the acts creates a commission to do a detailed study on maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity among Native American women.

The legislative package has garnered support from over 100 maternal health and public health organizations, many of which have stressed that addressing maternal health disparities in the United States was long overdue. “Almost two-thirds of maternal deaths are preventable,” said March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart said in a statement to Supermajority News. “Now is the time to enact policies that will eliminate disparities and improve health outcomes for women of color.”