Senator Murray: “It should be obvious to everyone: we cannot build back from this crisis stronger and fairer if we leave mothers behind. This is a priority for women and families, and it has to be a priority for us.”
***TO WATCH THE PANEL CLICK HERE***
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Vice President Harris and the White House during their Maternal Health Day of Action Summit. Senator Murray participated in a panel moderated by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure and focused on the historic measures to improve maternal health in the Build Back Better package. During the panel, Senator Murray stressed that in order to build back stronger and fairer from the pandemic, then Congress and the federal government must prioritize addressing the maternal mortality crisis to help keep moms across the country safe and healthy.
In addition to Senator Murray, the panel included Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12), Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), and Washington State Senator T’wina Nobles.
“It is unacceptable that our country has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world and an outrage that for years now it has been on the rise, and is continuing to disproportionately affect Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women,” said Senator Murray during the panel. “And while the need to address the reality of our nation’s appalling maternal death rate, and health inequities, was already clear and urgent before this pandemic, COVID-19 has made it worse. This virus has been especially dangerous for pregnant patients, and due to the longstanding inequities in our health care system, it has been especially devastating for communities of color. It should be obvious to everyone: we cannot build back from this crisis stronger and fairer if we leave mothers behind. This is a priority for women and families, and it has to be a priority for us.”
During the panel, Senator Murray emphasized the need to understand the scope of maternal health challenges through data collection. In her remarks, she noted that for too long, the people who have performed data collection have largely been comprised of those who weren’t giving birth, and weren’t paying enough attention to the challenges pregnant women face. Senator Murray highlighted her work to ensure the U.S.’s data collection system prioritizes the safety and health of mothers, and underscored the ways Build Back Better supports programs dedicated these efforts.
“If we want to make progress, we need to prioritize maternal health throughout our medical system like never before,” Senator Murray continued. “Build Back Better does that by supporting programs dedicated to looking at what is happening to pregnant people, listening to all of our communities, gathering the data, and actually getting the answers we need to improve health care for mothers across the country.”
The panel also included Washington State Senator T’wina Nobles, CEO of the Tacoma Urban League (TUL). Senator Nobles developed TUL’s Midwifery and Doula program to combat medical disadvantages facing Black women in pregnancy, childbirth and Black infant mortality in the South Sound region.
“Structural racism compromises our health. And the combination of racism and sexism often results in women of color—particularly African American women—consistently reporting experiencing bias and discrimination based on their race and gender in healthcare settings. This compounded discrimination results in women, but especially women of color, feeling invisible or unheard when asking medical providers for help, and when expressing issues with pain or discomfort during and after the birthing experience. This is why at Tacoma Urban League, we have decided that it is critical for us to ensure that black moms, black mothers all across our county in Pierce county have access to proper healthcare, have access to their rights, and that we are fighting for justice at all times,” said Senator Nobles. “It has been a tremendous opportunity to ensure that we are doing our part at Tacoma Urban League to highlight this issue, to make sure that we are increasing maternal health, working hard to eliminate maternal mortality. So I’m grateful to be here, and grateful to know that our U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, is trusting in us and supporting us in the work on the ground in Pierce County.”
Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
“Thank you Administrator Brooks-LaSure, I’m pleased to join you, Congresswoman Underwood, Congresswoman Kelly, Congresswoman Adams, T’wina Nobles from my home state of Washington, and so many others to talk about how Building Back Better means addressing maternal mortality.
“It is unacceptable that our country has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world and an outrage that for years now it has been on the rise, and is continuing to disproportionately affect Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women.
“In 2019, before COVID hit, over 750 women in our country died from causes related to pregnancy—which was almost 100 more deaths than the year before, and the maternal death rate for Black women was 2.5 times higher than for white women.
“Additionally, the rate for American Indian and Alaska Native women is over twice as high as for white women.
“According to CDC—almost two-thirds of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. But we know, too many pregnant women aren’t able to get the care they need.
“And even when they are able to speak with a health care provider, we know too often women, and especially women of color don’t have their concerns taken seriously, and aren’t listened to about the pain they are experiencing.
“They deserve so much better.
“And while the need to address the reality of our nation’s appalling maternal death rate, and health inequities, was already clear and urgent before this pandemic, COVID-19 has made it worse.
“This virus has been especially dangerous for pregnant patients, and due to the longstanding inequities in our health care system, it has been especially devastating for communities of color.
“It should be obvious to everyone: we cannot build back from this crisis stronger and fairer if we leave mothers behind.
“This is a priority for women and families, and it has to be a priority for us.
“And that’s what this event today is about—finally prioritizing maternal health, and showing how much we can change when we have champions for moms at every level of government.
“From President Biden and Vice President Harris who are prioritizing this like never before.
“To local champions, like Senator Nobles from Fircrest, Washington, who I’m so honored to introduce now.
“Senator T’wina Nobles, is the state Senator for Washington’s 28th district, and the CEO for the Tacoma Urban League.
“Under her leadership, the Tacoma Urban League developed a program to address the challenges women, especially Black women, face in child birth, and support aspiring doulas and midwives in the community.
“Senator Nobles I’m so glad to have you with us today, and grateful for all you do for families in our state.
“Thank you for joining us.
“You can’t solve a problem if you aren’t acknowledging it, researching it, gathering data, and assessing it carefully.
“But for way too long, that just wasn’t happening. Maternal health wasn’t a priority for our medical system.
“The people deciding what to research, who to focus on, what data to collect—weren’t people giving birth, and they weren’t paying enough attention to the challenges pregnant women face.
“And the result is, today we are still way behind where we need to be.
“That’s why I’ve been working on making sure we have strong information—and information sharing—and that we are listening to pregnant people from all backgrounds, looking at what helps keep mothers safe and what puts them at risk during and after pregnancy, and working to put those findings into action.
“For example, Build Back Better supports Perinatal Quality Collaboratives, and Maternal Mortality Review Committees—
“That sounds like a lot of words—but what it means for families is: having a group of experts focused on how we help people have a safe pregnancy.
“And we have seen how having experts collaborate and share information can help successfully reduce severe complications, bloodstream infections in newborns, and deliveries before 39 weeks.
“And dedicated expert review is vital to understanding what contributed to a death, so action steps can be taken to reduce the risk of harms to people during pregnancy, and in the year afterwards.
“Build Back Better will support work at the CDC to help states, tribes, and territories strengthen these resources, and it will help promote diversity and better understanding of the many factors contributing to increased risk of maternal mortality so that fewer women die as the result of having a child.
“We also have to make sure we make good use of the data we collect if we want to be able to understand and act on what it’s telling us.
“While the CDC has a monitoring system to collect information on what pregnant people are experiencing before, during, and shortly after their pregnancy, Build Back Better will help improve that system and transition it to an electronic format so it is easier to use, and help ensure the system supports reporting for COVID-specific experiences.
“Build Back Better will also fund research at the National Institutes of Health to look at how we mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant people.
“And of course, protecting pregnant people means not just looking at the challenges they are facing now, but being ready to protect them from threats in the future.
“Which is why Build Back Better will support work to understand and protect pregnant women from the environmental impacts of climate change like extreme heat and air pollution, and from emerging threats, so we can be better prepared in the future than we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In short, if we want to make progress, we need to prioritize maternal health throughout our medical system like never before.
“And Build Back Better does that by supporting programs dedicated to looking at what is happening to pregnant people, listening to all of our communities, gathering the data, and actually getting the answers we need to improve health care for mothers across the country.”