U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC-12th) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14th), introduced a resolution recognizing Black Maternal Health Week “to bring national attention to the maternal health crisis in the United States and the importance of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women and birthing persons.” Black Maternal Health Week is observed from April 11 through April 17.
The resolution underscores the disproportionate health complications suffered by Black birthing people during pregnancy who face maternal morbidities three times as often as their white counterparts due to structural racism and gender oppression in maternal health care experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these inequities, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that the maternal mortality rate for Black women has increased by 26% since the pandemic began. In order to reverse these alarming trends, the resolution calls on Congress to “support and encourage policies grounded in the human rights, reproductive justice, and birth justice frameworks that address Black maternal health inequity.”
“Our nation is experiencing a maternal mortality crisis,” said Sen. Booker. “The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates of any wealthy nation, which has rapidly increased during the past years and continues to disproportionately impact Black birthing people who more often encounter the systemic inequalities of our broken health care system. To improve Black maternal health outcomes, this resolution calls on Congress to implement a comprehensive approach that provides Black communities with economic support, environmental justice provisions, and access to high-quality, affordable health care. I am proud to once again work with Representatives Adams and Underwood on this resolution to address this urgent and critical issue.”
“This week we are lifting up the voices of Black women who are doing the critical work of eliminating maternal health disparities and creating a world where maternal justice and equality are a reality,” said Congresswoman Adams, co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “In 2018, I was honored to introduce the first Congressional resolution recognizing Black Maternal Health Week with then-Senator Kamala Harris. In 2019, I asked the youngest Black woman elected to Congress, Lauren Underwood, if she wanted to launch a Congressional Caucus focused on Black maternal health. So, we launched the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which now boasts 115 bipartisan Members of Congress. In 2020, we introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act – a package of 12 bills to comprehensively address existing gaps in policy solutions to the maternal health crisis. The bill was crafted with Black women, by Black women and for Black women. Last year, we re-introduced the Momnibus, and passed the first bill from the package. I’m so excited to continue this work in this Congress, because Black mamas can’t wait.”
“The maternal health crisis demands urgent attention and serious action to save lives and advance birth equity across the country,” said Rep. Underwood. “In 2019, I co-founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus with Congresswoman Alma Adams to respond to this crisis and advocate for evidence-based solutions that will end disparities. I’m thrilled to introduce this resolution with Congresswoman Adams and Senator Booker to recognize Black Maternal Health Week 2022, which elevates Black maternal health as a national priority and emphasizes the need to reduce maternal mortality and achieve maternal health justice.”
“The Black Maternal Health field has expanded significantly since the first Black Maternal Health Week launched back in 2018. I am so proud of the work that BMMA, our partners, and collaborators have led to create a demonstrable impact on behalf of Black women and birthing people’s maternal and reproductive rights,” said Angela D. Aina, Executive Director of Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “Still, there is so much more to be done to address the startling statistics and realities facing Black expectant individuals. As we celebrate Black Maternal Health Week, and continue to champion the reproductive rights and health equity of all Black birthing people, we hope our collective efforts will create even more transformative change for generations to come.”
“March of Dimes commends Representatives Alma Adams, Lauren Underwood and Senator Cory Booker for spearheading this year’s Black Maternal Health Week Resolution and their efforts to address the alarming state of Black maternal health,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of the March of Dimes. “In the U.S., Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and 50 percent more likely to have a preterm birth as compared to White women. It is past time we address the structural racism and inequities in social determinants of health that contribute so significantly to the disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women.”
Booker has led and pushed for legislation to address the Black maternal health crisis. Last year, Senator Booker, along with Representative Lauren Underwood and Representative Alma Adams, introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, which would help save moms’ lives, end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, and achieve maternal health justice for Black women and all women and birthing people of color. He also introduced the MOMMIES Act, legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage for birthing people and especially help Black birthing people afford reproductive care.
In addition to Booker, the resolution is cosponsored in the Senate by: Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Additional quotes in support of Black Maternal Health Week 2022 can be found here. A list of organizations supporting the resolution can be found here.