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Sen. Kamala Harris Announces Black Maternal Health Bill

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our healthcare system,” the senator said.

Sen. Kamala Harris to Announce Black Maternal Health Bill
April 24, 2019: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Kamala Harris campaigns in New Hampshire. | Credit: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) announced Wednesday that she is reintroducing the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (Maternal CARE) Act to help establish health equity for pregnant Black women.

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system. We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves,” Harris said in a statement obtained by EBONY.

The 2020 presidential hopeful added, “My Maternal CARE Act will establish implicit bias training through the medical profession and help ensure that womenespecially Black women—have access to comprehensive, culturally competent care.”

Harris first introduced the bill in August 2018 to address the racial bias within the healthcare system. Rep. Alma Adams (D-North Carolina), the founder/co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, later introduced the companion legislation in the House.

Black women, regardless of social status or education, die of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications in the United States at alarming rates. According to the legislation, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their White counterparts.

The Maternal CARE Act will:

  • Help medical schools incorporate bias recognition in clinical skills testing by directing the National Academy of Medicine to study and make recommendations.
  • Create a new $25 million grant program to fight racial bias in maternal health care. The money will be aimed at 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 in implicit attitudes or stereotypes.
  • Allocate $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 implement pregnancy medical home demonstration projects to develop and carry out pregnancy medical home (PMH) 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.

“We cannot address the Black maternal health crisis facing this country until we address racial disparities in healthcare,” Adams said in the statement. “The Maternal CARE Act will confront the persistent biases in our health system to ensure Black women have equal access to the quality pre – and post-natal care they deserve. I thank Senator Harris for her leadership in the Senate and look forward to continuing to work together to address this public health crisis.”

The bill is supported by several organizations, including the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Black Women Birthing Justice and Black Women’s Health Imperative.

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