Last week was a great one in Massachusetts for maternal health justice. My Senate colleagues and I passed four (4!) bills that support reproductive health and justice for everyone in the Commonwealth. I filed and led the charge on two of those bills, both of which were passed by unanimous, bipartisan votes.
One bill,An Act to reduce racial disparities in maternal health (S.2865 - https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2865), creates a special commission to examine and make legislative recommendations to eliminate racial disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity in the Commonwealth.It is unconscionable that people giving birth today are more likely to suffer injury, illness, or death than our mothers and grandmothers who delivered in the previous century, and birthing people of color face these heartbreaking results in gross disproportion.
Among the developed nations of the world, only the U.S. continues to allow people giving birth to die in increasing numbers, evidenced by a 238% increase in maternal death (https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm) between 1987 and 2015. These outcomes are staggeringly worse for people of color.From 2011-2016, there were 42.4 deaths per 100,000 births for non-Hispanic Black women, compared to 13.0 for non-Hispanic white women. These disparities persist, even when controlled for factors such as income, age, and prenatal care. Massachusetts is not immune to this structural racism in our maternal health care. Black people giving birth in our Commonwealth are *twice* as likely to die as white people due to complications from pregnancy or labor.
In my floor speech above, I shared some of the many stories from a recent COVID-19 maternal equity town hall that I co-hosted with state and federal legislative colleagues, spearheaded by the MA COVID-19 Maternal Equity Coalition. Centering the voices of Black and brown patients and healthcare providers is especially important on the floor of the Senate since it is a predominately white body, with no Black members. I encourage you to listen and hear their stories.
My second bill to pass the Senate unanimously, An Act relative to out-of-hospital birth access and safety (S.2683 - https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2863),will create formal licensure forcertified professional midwives to make homebirth care more accessible, affordable, and safe in our Commonwealth. While I filed the bill long before the pandemic, COVID-19 made passing this bill ever so much more pressing. Watch my floor speech to learn about why this bill is not only a health care access and cost reduction bill, but also a maternal justice bill:
Now more than ever, we must affirm our commitment to reproductive justice to ensure that peopleare empowered to self-determine whether, when, and how they parent. That includes the ability to make safe, informed choices about birth care, and ensuring our dedicated midwives have the professional and legal support and recognition they deserve.
As a reminder, the Department of Public Health issues acomprehensive daily dashboard of data, including a breakdown of coronavirus cases by county and other demographic distinctions. Town and city level data is updated weekly. I am deeply concerned about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. I encourage everyone to continue to follow physical distancing guidelines and wear a mask whenever you are unable to distance, especially indoors.
If you or any of your loved ones in my district have fallen on hard times during this public health crisis and need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. My team and I are hard at work connecting constituents with resources they need, whether it is collecting unemployment benefits, accessing food stamps, reaching state agencies, or otherwise. My office line is 617-722-1555 and my email is email@example.com. We are here to help.
Wishing you and your families strength, health, and resilience.
Yours in service,
Senator Becca Rausch
Our mailing address is: The Office of Senator Becca Rausch Massachusetts State House, Room 218 24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02133