Durbin Delivers Speech On MOMMA Act At Illinois Maternal Health Summit

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) yesterday joined the first-ever Maternal Health Summit sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to deliver a speech on his efforts to reduce and close the racial disparity gap in maternal and infant mortality. After being introduced by Director of the IDPH Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Durbin spoke to doctors, health care providers, health researchers, public health officials, midwives, and doulas about the MOMMA Act and its provisions to support new mothers, especially women and infants of color who are at a higher risk of experiencing complications as a result of their pregnancy.

“You don’t have to go to an impoverished nation to see the deadly consequences of racial disparities in infant and maternal health. All we have to do is look around us. The United States – the wealthiest nation on Earth – has one of the poorest records for maternal and infant health…The U.S. is one of the only 13 nations in the world where the maternal mortality rate is worse now than it was 25 years ago,” Durbin said.

Durbin continued, “Black women are three times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related causes. Black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants. For each of those deaths, there are tens of thousands of near-deaths.”

In February, Durbin introduced the bicameral Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-2). The bill aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, particularly for moms and babies of color, by establishing national obstetric emergency protocols; disseminating best shared practices amongst maternal mortality review committees; improving access to culturally competent car through the care continuum; and providing guidance and options for states to adopt and pay for doula support services.

In March, a key provision of the MOMMA Act was included in the American Rescue Plan. The provision gives states a five-year option to extend health care coverage for new moms on Medicaid from 60 days after pregnancy to a full year. This expansion is especially important given that one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths in Illinois occur between two and twelve months postpartum. After consistent advocacy from Durbin, Duckworth, Kelly, and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), Illinois became the first state in the nation to receive a waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to expand Medicaid coverage to one year post-partum. Durbin is working to include a permanent Medicaid expansion for new mothers in all states as part of ongoing congressional negotiations.

Durbin also joined his Senate colleagues in introducing a resolution recognizing Black Maternal Health Week from April 11 to April 17 to bring national attention to the maternal health crisis in the U.S. and the importance of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women and birthing persons.