Kaine and Murkowski Introduce Bill to Reduce Maternal and Infant Mortality, Address Racial Inequities in Maternal Health

Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Mothers and Newborns Success Act, bipartisan legislation to promote maternal health and reduce racial inequities in maternal and infant mortality by strengthening support for women during and after pregnancy, expanding maternal health research and data collection, and ensuring women are better matched with birthing facilities that meet their specific needs.

“Black women are nearly three times more likely to die from a pregnancy than white women. We must take action to tackle this disparity, reduce maternal mortality, and strengthen access to care for mothers,” said Kaine. “This bill is critical to helping ensure all women and their newborns receive the support they need during and after pregnancy.”

“Despite improvements over the years, far too many women still face significant disparities in maternal health outcomes including pregnancy-related death, high maternal mortality, and other maternal health conditions. It’s a heartbreaking reality that Alaska Native women and expecting mothers in rural communities face even worse maternal health outcomes,” said Murkowski. “We must do all we can to provide equitable access to care for all pregnant women. I’m pleased to join Senator Kaine in introducing the Mothers and Newborns Success Act to do just that.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was more than 2.89 times higher than the maternal mortality rate for white women, and the infant mortality rate of babies born to Black women is more than 2.36 times higher than the infant mortality rate of babies born to white women. From 2016 through 2018, the maternal mortality rate for American Indian/Alaska Native women was 1.9 times higher than the maternal mortality rate for white women. More than 80 percent of maternal deaths are preventable, which is why it’s critical pregnant women have access to timely, high-quality care.

Specifically, the Mothers and Newborns Success Act would:

  • Provide grants administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) State Maternal Health Innovation Program and the Supporting Maternal Health Innovation Program for states to create and implement plans to address disparities in maternal health and improve maternal health outcomes.
  • Support CDC’s work to classify birthing facilities so that patients know the level of risk-appropriate maternal and neonatal care at each facility. This would help improve care delivery and health outcomes for expectant mothers and their infants.
  • Support CDC’s efforts to gather pregnancy checkbox data from death certificates to help provide more accurate data on maternal deaths.  
  • Support CDC’s data collection on maternal attitudes and experiences during the pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum periods as well as efforts to provide technical assistance to states to ensure representation of communities of color in key datasets. This data would help determine and address gaps in care.
  • Establish a pilot program through HRSA to identify and share best practices and evidence-based information on maternal health with providers and patients.
  • Establish a National Maternal Health Research Network at the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support innovative research on the underlying causes of maternal mortality and their treatment. 
  • Support HRSA’s Rural Maternity and Obstetric Management Strategies (RMOMS) Program to improve access to and continuity of obstetrics care in rural communities, including through the use of telehealth.
  • Establish a public and provider awareness campaign through the CDC to promote awareness of maternal health warning signs and the importance of vaccinations for pregnant women and children.

Full text of the legislation is available here.