NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Thursday that he has joined a coalition of 21 Attorneys General in calling on Congress to enact proposed legislation aimed at reducing the disproportionately high rate of maternal mortality among Black mothers and other women of color in the United States.
In a letter to leaders of both the Senate and House of Representatives, Grewal urged Congress to pass the 12-bill package called the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. The legislation seeks to increase access to maternal and perinatal care, while also addressing some of the social determinants of the maternal health crisis affecting women of color including housing, transportation, and nutrition services. It also seeks to address implicit bias and discrimination in the health care professions that contribute to inequities in health care.
“The health of our Black mothers and babies is of paramount importance,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “In my Fiscal Year 2022 budget, we are investing directly in the First Lady’s strategic efforts to combat our maternal and infant health crisis and the racial disparities that drive it. Because new mothers need support well past delivery, one of our key investments is to ensure Medicaid coverage for one full year after delivering a baby. We urge Congress to enact this legislation so that we can work in tandem with our federal partners to capitalize on the momentum we have built with thousands across our state.”
“Improving Black maternal and infant health in our country requires transforming a system that has historically failed Black women,” First Lady Tammy Murphy said. “For three years, we have been laser focused on this issue, bringing together the nation’s leading maternal and infant health experts and developing a plan designed to completely reinvent the way we care for pregnant women, particularly women of color. The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Statewide Strategic Plan is not only a blueprint to solve New Jersey’s maternal health crisis, but a plan for tackling systemic racism across our country. It is a massive undertaking and requires collaboration and communication across federal, state, and local levels, health care providers, community organizations, academia and even the private sector. We urge Congress to enact this legislation so that we can build on this important work and save the lives of countless mothers and babies.”
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Murphy and the First Lady, New Jersey is now committed to reducing the high rates of maternal and infant mortality that disproportionately affect New Jersey’s Black residents,” Grewal said. “Today, we’re calling on Congress to do the right thing for families here in New Jersey and around the country.”
Maternal mortality refers to death from complications from pregnancy, or childbirth, occurring during the pregnancy or within six weeks after the end of pregnancy.
The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, with significantly higher rates of maternal mortality occurring among Black women, who are dying at a rate 3 to 4 times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related causes. Other women of color are also disproportionately affected.
Studies have shown that additional at-risk groups include women between the ages of 35 and 44, women in low-income ZIP codes, women without insurance, and women residing in southern states.
New Jersey has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, and Black women in New Jersey experience maternal mortality at a rate seven times higher than their white counterparts.
The federal legislative package endorsed by the Attorneys General dovetails with New Jersey’s own Nurture New Jersey Strategic Plan, which the First Lady unveiled in January. The plan aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in the state, and ensure equity in care and outcomes for mothers and infants of all ethnic groups.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act specifically addresses multiple factors that cause high rates of maternal mortality by providing funding to community-based maternal health organizations; diversifying the perinatal workforce; improving maternal health care for individuals with mental health conditions, substance abuse disorders, and the incarcerated; enhancing postpartum care; and promoting maternal health innovation such as telehealth, maternal vaccinations, and payment options from pregnancy through the postpartum period.