WASHINGTON [3.11.22] – Today, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that her bipartisan bill to reduce America’s uniquely high maternal mortality rate has been passed into law as part of the omnibus bill.
While pregnancy-related deaths are declining around the world, the United States stands out as the only industrialized country with an increasing maternal mortality rate. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas and communities of color, with Black and Native women more than two and a half times more likely to die from pregnancy–related complications.
The Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act takes important steps towards understanding the root causes of maternal mortality and developing solutions to improve maternal care in rural areas and communities of color. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
“It is just plain unacceptable that a woman giving birth in 1987 had a greater likelihood of surviving childbirth than her daughter does today,” said Senator Smith. “I am proud of our work to pass this legislation, which will make important strides towards solving this crisis and ensuring mothers, particularly those in rural communities and communities of color, are able to safely give birth.”
With shortages of health care providers, rural hospitals are more likely to close their labor and delivery units in order to make ends meet. In fact, more than half of rural counties lack hospitals with labor and birthing services. This contributes to a disparity in access to care and worse outcomes for the 18 million women who live in rural areas. Unfortunately, as in urban America, this disparity is more prominent for minority populations. Counties with more black residents are at greater risk of losing their labor and delivery services.
Senator Smith’s bipartisan legislation would:
- Improve Rural Maternal and Obstetric Care Data by directing the CDC to coordinate efforts on maternal mortality, including based on sociocultural and geographic contexts.
- Award new rural obstetric network grants to establish regional innovation networks to improve maternal mortality and morbidity and birth outcomes.
- Expand Existing Federal Telehealth Grant Programs to include prenatal, labor, birthing, and postpartum services.
- Establish a New Rural Maternal and Obstetric Care Training Demonstration to support training for physicians, medical residents, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, the home visiting workforce, and other professionals to provide maternal care services in rural settings.