Durbin, Duckworth Help Introduce Maternal Care Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today joined Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to introduce the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act, legislation to address persistent biases and shortcomings in our nation’s medical system that have contributed to the ongoing maternal mortality crisis impacting Black women.  The United States is one of only thirteen countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality is now worse than it was 25 years ago.  Nationally, African American mothers die at 3-4 times the rate of white mothers, and black babies are twice as likely to die as white babies.  In Illinois, women of color are six times more likely than white women to die of a pregnancy-related complication. Currently, the United States ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality.

“No nation as rich and advanced as the United States should have new moms and infants—especially women and babies of color—dying at the rates we are currently seeing.  It is a national tragedy,” Durbin said.  “Many of these deaths could have been prevented with the right interventions and health care.  That’s why I’m proud to help introduce this important legislation with Senators Harris and Duckworth.”

“It is absolutely unconscionable that, since I gave birth to Maile, hundreds of expectant and new moms are estimated to have died from preventable causes in this country,” Duckworth said.  “I’m proud to join Senators Harris and Durbin in introducing this legislation to address our nation’s growing maternal mortality crisis, which disproportionately impacts women of color and those living in underserved or more rural areas.  No more women should die from preventable causes on what should be the most special day of their lives.”

Maternal and infant mortality is especially important to Illinois families.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), on average, 73 Illinois mothers die every year, with more than 70 percent of these deaths being deemed preventable. While Illinois’ maternal mortality rate is slightly lower than the national average, the disparity of black mothers dying is nearly double the national disparity.  According to the IDPH, black mothers in Illinois die at 600 percent the rate of their white counterparts.

In March, Durbin and Duckworth, along with U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), introduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act.  The legislation seeks to reduce America’s rising maternal and infant mortality rate, especially for moms and babies of color who are significantly more likely to die during or shortly after pregnancy.

The Maternal CARE Act:

  • Creates a new $25 million program to address racial bias in maternal health care. The new grant program will be directed to medical schools, nursing schools, and other health professional training programs to support evidence-based implicit training that will improve care for Black women by reducing bias in judgment or behavior resulting from implicit attitudes or stereotypes.
  • Allocates $125 million to identify high-risk pregnancies, and provide mothers with the culturally competent care and resources they need. The new grant program will help states develop and carry out pregnancy medical home programs. These programs improve care by incentivizing maternal health care providers to deliver integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers and reduce adverse maternal health outcomes, maternal deaths, and racial health disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity.
  • Helps medical schools incorporate bias recognition in clinical skills testing by directing the National Academy of Medicine to study and make recommendations.

Supporters of the legislation include the American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Black Women Birthing Justice, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for Reproductive Rights, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Commonsense Childbirth - National Perinatal Task Force, Every Mother Counts, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, March of Dimes, National Association to Advance Black Birth, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Black Midwives Alliance, National Health Law Program, National Partnership for Women & Families, National WIC Association, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, WomenHeart, and 1,000 Days.

In addition to Durbin, Duckworth, and Harris, the Maternal CARE Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).