(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing the bicameral 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.
“We are facing a maternal mortality crisis in our country: the US is the only industrialized country in the world with surging mortality rates,” said Shaheen. “The disparity is especially egregious for communities of color. Black mothers are three times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy complications. That’s why I’m supporting a bill to address this crisis by investing in culturally competent maternal and postpartum health care. We must put an end to these preventable deaths and stand up for our mothers and babies.”
On average, maternal mortality claims the lives of about 700 American moms each year—an additional 70,000 women suffer near-fatal health complications—with more than 60 percent of these deaths being preventable. Further, every year in the United States, more than 23,000 infants die, many due to factors that could have been prevented. Women and babies of color are particularly at risk—with Black women being about three times more likely than white women to suffer pregnancy-related deaths, and Black babies being twice as likely as white babies to die in their first year of life. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the maternal health crisis and need to address these racially disparate outcomes.
The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is worse now that it was 25 years ago and is the only industrialized country with a rising maternal mortality rate. The shocking statistics cut across geography, education level, income and socio-economic status. Further, the United States ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality—with 23,000 babies born in the United States dying annually.
Senator Shaheen has pursued legislative measures to address maternal deaths in the United States. Through her role on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shaheen included a directive to the Department of Defense in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to provide more information to the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding concerns about maternal deaths at military hospitals. Media reports and research have raised the alarm on pregnancy-associated deaths at military hospitals and caused worry as to whether facilities need to pursue additional measures to improve the safety of women during childbirth at military treatment facilities.