Yesterday marked the start of Black Maternal Health Week, a crucial time to lift up the voices and perspectives of Black mothers and birthing people amid a national crisis in Black maternal health. 

Among wealthy and “developed” nations, the US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. Data show that Black women are around three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related issue than White non-Hispanic women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality is the death of a birthing person during pregnancy, at delivery, or soon after delivery. Maternal morbidity is defined as any health condition resulting from pregnancy and childbirth that has negative outcomes to a woman’s well-being. Since the founding of the United States, Black women have been forced to confront the burden of simultaneous racism and sexism; this unique experience is a leading factor contributing to the high rates of Black maternal mortality and morbidity we see today.  

Unsurprisingly, increased reproductive restrictions since the overturn of Roe v. Wade have exacerbated the Black maternal health crisis. States with abortion bans and reproductive health restrictions are more likely to be maternity care deserts, have higher rates of maternal mortality and infant death, and have wider racial disparities in health care. Even more disturbing, a study of 36 states found that over 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable by the Maternal Mortality Review Committees. Legislators must prioritize policies to protect reproductive autonomy, including abortion access. The Black maternal health crisis is a national emergency that requires immediate action from leaders and policymakers at all levels.  

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, also known as the “Momnibus,” presents an exemplary opportunity to address the issues at the root of the Black maternal health crisis. Introduced by Senator Booker (D-NJ), Representative Underwood (D-IL), and Representative Adams (D-NC), the Momnibus Act is an omnibus that coalesces 13 individual bills. It includes critical provisions such as establishing a task force between federal agencies and stakeholders to eliminate maternal mortality, morbidity, and mental health disparities for all women, including incarcerated pregnant women. To assist federal and state agencies in monitoring the maternal health crisis, the bill would establish a centralized data collection resource on maternal health and mortality. Additionally, the Momnibus calls for sustainable funding of grassroots and community-based organizations to continue to advance ongoing maternal health equity work. The Momnibus Act requires diversifying the perinatal workforce by increased funding for minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to study maternal health as well as grant funding for research, technology, and benefits for all birthing people and their medical processes. Finally, the bill calls for studying the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change on the Black maternal health crisis. 

IWPR joins over 200 organizations in fully supporting and endorsing the Black Maternal Health “Momnibus” Act. As IWPR President and CEO Dr. Jamila Taylor states, “No mother should fear for her life at a time that should be full of joy. We are letting women, especially Black women, needlessly die. They deserve better, and we must act.” Congress must take the first step to truly address the Black maternal health crisis and pass the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act.