Shaheen, Kuster Introduce Legislation to Study the Harmful Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Maternal Health

August 03, 2021

**The Protect Moms from Domestic Violence Act would research domestic and sexual violence as a social determinant of health**

**Introduction of the legislation follows Shaheen’s call to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to include funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs in the upcoming reconciliation package** 

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) introduced legislation with Congresswomen Gwen Moore (WI-04), Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams, PhD (NC-12) to study the harmful effects of intimate partner violence on maternal health. The Protect Moms from Domestic Violence Act would research domestic and sexual violence as a social determinant of health. The bill would also award grants to programs that improve maternal and child health outcomes of survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“Sexual and domestic violence are pervasive problems in our society that do not discriminate, and that tragically impact expectant mothers. The scope of this problem demands a serious, targeted response, including specific efforts that address the effects this trauma can have on mothers to best protect their health and the well-being of the child. That’s precisely what this legislation aims to do,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Understanding how these types of trauma can manifest in the mother or child are critical to planning for a safe delivery and post-partum care. I’ll always stand up for survivors and keep up efforts in the Senate to keep them safe and bring perpetrators to justice.”

“I’m heartbroken by the staggering number of pregnant moms facing domestic and interpersonal violence,” said Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster. “As a co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I know that data-informed analysis about the intersectionality of issues like maternal mortality and domestic violence is critical to understanding how to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. I’m proud to team up with Rep. Moore to introduce this important legislation to strengthen research and innovate strategies to protect moms and families.”

“We are grateful to Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Kuster for introducing this critical legislation that recognizes the significant toll that domestic and sexual violence can have on victims throughout their lifetime, especially when it comes to their physical and mental health,” said Lyn Schollett, Executive Director, NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “We have long known that intimate partner violence leads to a host of short- and long-term health consequences for victims, and it’s critical that we invest in resources and services that can more effectively respond to the needs of survivors, especially those who are pregnant and at an increased risk of maternal morbidity. This is a meaningful first step towards strengthening our social and medical systems to acknowledge the additional barriers that pregnant survivors face, and recognizing intimate partner violence as the serious public health issue that it is."

Domestic and sexual violence have been linked to significant, long-term consequences on the health of expectant mothers and their children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Currently, approximately 324,000 pregnant persons experience IPV each year, with around 1 in 6 women abused for the first time during their pregnancy. IPV during pregnancy can result in adverse pregnancy outcomes including poor pregnancy, weight gain, anemia, placental abruption, preterm delivery, low birth weight and stillbirth. Because violence often escalates during pregnancy or the postpartum period, psychological trauma may exacerbate preexisting conditions like hypertension or gestational diabetes. Physical or sexual trauma can also increase the risk of vaginal bleeding, miscarriage or even perinatal death. The Protect Moms from Domestic Violence Act will promote improvements in research and make investments in innovative programs to prevent domestic violence, support survivors and address structural barriers to health equity.

Read more on the Protect Moms from Domestic Violence Act here.

As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Shaheen has spearheaded efforts to protect survivors and to help them seek justice. In December, Shaheen once again successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 government funding legislation that was signed into law. This week, Shaheen called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to include funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs in the upcoming reconciliation package.

Throughout the pandemic, Senator Shaheen has worked to provide more resources and services to domestic violence survivors nationwide. She helped lead calls to Congressional leadership to include additional funding to support the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and dating violence in COVID-19 response legislation. Last month, she pushed for a swift vote in the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired two years ago, after the House passed the legislation. Last year, she visited the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) in Concord, where she met with NHCADSV’s leadership and representatives from crisis centers to hear more about the impact COVID-19 has had on survivors and the state’s crisis centers.

Shaheen also led efforts in the Senate to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Her bill, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors and for the first time allowed survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Last year, Shaheen introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to build on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation.