Illinois Senator Dick Durbin spoke on the Senator Floor Tuesday about new legislation aimed at reducing maternity and infant mortality rates. The Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act or MOMMA Act seeks to reduce the rising mortality rates for babies and mothers. Durbin pointed out some key statistics in his speech. “The United States currently ranks 32nds out of 35 industrial nations when it comes to infant mortality. A 2018 report published in Health Affairs by Global Health characterized the United States ‘the most dangerous of wealthy nation for a child to be born into.’ What they found was that babies born in the United States are three times more likely to die of premature birth, and more than twice as likely to die of SIDS than babies in comparably rich countries. Every year, more than 23,000 infants die in the U.S. largely due to factors that are preventable – low birth weight, maternal health complications, and prematurity. Babies of color are particularly at risk. Black infants are twice as likely to die than white ones, a disparity that is greater than it was in the year 1850.”
Durbin said that new mother deaths has also regressed in the past 25 years, especially for women of color with more than 700 dying each year in the United States.
Durbin said that the MOMMA Act would expand Medicare coverage from 2 months to a full year for women and their newborn. Durbin said that Medicare currently pays for 50% of all childbirths nationwide and 44% of births in Illinois. Durbin said the act would also cover several other services including doulas and providing multicultural sensitivity training to obstetricians and infant nurses. Durbin said that women of color are often ignored when it comes to complications and problems during and after pregnancies. He said that the MOMMA Act would help to close the disparity between races and birth, something he says that is not in correlation with socioeconomic status.
The bill is supported by nearly 60 public health organizations, including the American Medical Association, March of Dimes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
The MOMMA Act was introduced by 2nd District Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly in March of last year, with Durbin’s parent bill introduced in October. Both bills currently sit in committee debate. Durbin’s speech was to make a unaminous consent request for immediate passage by the Senate chamber. Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse rejected the request on behalf of the conservative majority.