Sen. Kaine introduces bill to address high mortality rate for mothers of color

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Seven years ago, Zel Farrow woke up to hemorrhaging. It was January, and she was due to give birth three months later in April.

“That did not happen,” said Farrow, who was quickly taken from Lynchburg Baptist to a hospital in Charlottesville. “I contracted an infection and other issues occurred, and they had to do an emergency cesarean. Hubby was in Lynchburg, I’m in Charlottesville. I had a temperature and things were not looking well for both of us, baby or myself … She’s now home and she’s now seven and healthy and it’s like it never happened.”

She says her delivery would have been easier if she had someone in the room who knew her needs enough to speak for her.

It’s what inspired her to become a doula through the Motherhood Collective, a group that helps provide free doula services to dozens of women of color in the Lynchburg area.

“Sometimes moms just need that extra help, that extra support, that extra advocacy during their labor and delivery process,” said Farrow.

Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine introduced a bill on Tuesday, May 25, alongside Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to address the issue.

Part of what Kaine and Murkowski’s bill would do would be to set up public awareness campaigns about maternal health warning signs and fund programs that work locally to address the race disparity.

“What we’re trying to do is do better data collection and also be more innovative in funding best practices like what you see in Lynchburg,” said Kaine.

“It is a problem, and the spotlight does need to be shined there,” said Farrow.

Kaine also introduced three other bills to address maternal mortality, which passed in the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. They are the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act, the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services Act, and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act.

Kaine’s office provided the following information on specific ways the bills are meant to impact people in Lynchburg and the surrounding area:

·        The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act will address these disparities by (among other initiatives) authorizing a grant program for innovations in reducing maternal mortality and another grant program for racial and ethnic bias training for health care providers. In addition, one provision of the committee-passed version of the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act was modeled after a provision of Senator Kaine’s Mothers and Newborns Success Act; the provision promotes the vaccination of pregnant women and infants. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the rates of full immunization for young Black children and young American Indian/Alaska Native children are slightly lower than that of young non-Hispanic White children.

·        Kaine also reintroduced the entire Mothers and Newborns Success Act yesterday, which would establish a pilot program to better support women’s health in the postpartum period, establish a National Maternal Health Research Network at the NIH to support innovative research to reduce maternal mortality and promote maternal health, and take other steps to close the racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality rates. The bill also supports the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Maternity and Obstetric Management Strategies (RMOMS) Program, which aims to improve access to and continuity of obstetrics care in rural communities, including through the use of telehealth.

·        The Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services Act will direct the CDC to report data on women’s health conditions specific to different sociocultural groups and geographies and to emphasize research on pregnancy-related deaths. It’ll also expand telehealth services to include birth and postpartum services and establish new training for physicians, midwives, doulas, and other professionals to provide maternal care in rural communities.

·        The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act will provide salaried employees adequate privacy and break time to pump breastmilk. (Current law affords this only for hourly employees.)

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