Buzz on the Hill: Maternal Health Briefing

April 23, 2010

On April 14th, 2010, over 60 hill staff and concerned activists came out for a congressional health briefing titled “Does the New Health Care Reform Law Address Barriers Women Face When Seeking Maternal Health Care?” hosted by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary. At the request of Chairman Conyers, the briefing featured our very own Nan Strauss, Amnesty International USA’s lead researcher on our most recent report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis, as well as two Congressional Research Service (CRS) specialists on Medicaid.

Nan’s compelling presentation on the maternal health care crisis highlighted that while significantly needed strides were made with the passage of health care reform, the magnitude of the maternal health crisis in the U.S. continues to claim the lives of 2 – 3 women every day. Using individual stories as well as global statistics, Nan explained that in the United States:

  • Two to three women die every day of complications resulting from pregnancy or childbirth
  • Maternal deaths in the US are more likely than in 40 other countries
  • Black women are nearly four times more likely to die than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, these disparities increase dramatically
  • Many inner city hospitals are chronically understaffed. Again, women of color are more likely to seek care at understaffed hospitals than white women
  • Nearly half of maternal deaths and ‘near-misses’ could have been prevented with better access to good quality maternal health care
  • Although health care reform has many provisions that will help women, such as ending discriminatory insurance practices based upon ‘pre-existing conditions,’ many of the underlying conditions responsible for the appalling rates of maternal deaths in the US, continue to exist

As the next step after health care reform, she said, Amnesty International is calling for the establishment of an Office of Maternal Health within the Department of Health and Human Services.

You can take action here by writing to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and asking her to work with President Obama to establish an Office of Maternal Health.

Mona Luxion contributed to this post.