Adams: Maternal health is in ‘a crisis within a crisis’

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.)
Greg Nash

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) raised alarm Thursday about the quality of maternal health around the country, saying American women are dying in childbirth more than other wealthy countries — and are now dealing with an additional public health crisis. 

“The state of maternal health is still in crisis,” Adams, the co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, said at The Hill’s Investing in Maternal and Infant Health event.

“As a matter of fact, when you think about the pandemic, we have a crisis within a crisis,” she said.

About 700 women die each year in the United States each year as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency reports that Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues compared to white women.

“It’s a serious problem, and we want to continue to shed light on it,” Adams told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

On Tuesday, President Biden signed into law the Protecting Moms Who Served Act, the first bill passed as a part of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, a 12-bill package reintroduced by Adams and other lawmakers in February to address social factors that drive disparities in maternal health. 

The law will create a $15 million program at the Department of Veterans Affairs to study and support maternal care issues faced by veterans. Adams attended Tuesday’s signing ceremony at The White House.

“It’s a comprehensive approach in terms of these bills, and it’s something that we’ve never tried before, but we’re actually making a lot of strides here,” Adams said.

She said other provisions packaged as a part of the Momnibus are included in Biden’s massive social spending and climate package, called the Build Back Better Act, such as a provision to ensure pregnant and postpartum Medicaid enrollees receive a full year of coverage after pregnancy ends.

“He supports the issues we continue to raise around black maternal health, so we’re not going to have a problem convincing this president,” Adams said.

“He understands what the issues are. He certainly has invested already in terms of the Build Back Better, which we’re working on. It’s going to give us an opportunity to save lives,” she said.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), co-chair of the Maternity Care Caucus, said at Thursday’s event that she was concerned about combining the provisions into the conglomerate spending bill, especially amid high inflation rates.

Herrera Beutler voted against the Build Back Better Act in the House last month, but said she has advocated for targeted maternal health legislation and introduced the Helping MOMS Act, which would extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers.

“In fact, I would argue some of the things they’ve taken in recent months and put into law will definitely have a real benefit with regard to the health system — in pieces,” she said.

But Herrera Beutler argued that the Democrats’ larger social package will lead to “overspending,” adding that her caucus has made bipartisan progress advancing maternal care legislation irrespective of party control.

“I think if we’re pushing big pieces of legislation, be it infrastructure or health care, it does need to be bipartisan,” she said.

Updated 9:50 a.m. on Dec. 4

Tags Alma Adams Jaime Herrera Beutler Joe Biden Maternal health

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