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Congresswomen Adams and Underwood Launch Black Maternal Health Caucus

Apr 9, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswomen Alma Adams (NC -12) and Lauren Underwood (IL-14) launched the Black Maternal Health Caucus to improve black maternal health outcomes. The United States has the worst maternal death rates in the developed world, at 18 death per 100,00 live births. The maternal mortality rate is alarmingly higher among black women, at 40 deaths per 100,000 live births.


Black women are nearly four times more like than white women – and more than twice as likely as women on other races – to die from preventable, pregnancy-related complications. Black women also experience higher rates of maternal complications and infant mortality. They are twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death, and these disparities have not improved for more than 30 years.


The Black Maternal Health Caucus aims to raise awareness within Congress to establish Black maternal health as a national priority, and explore and advocate for effective, evidence-based, culturally-competent policies and best practices for health outcomes for Black mothers.


“Across the country, maternal health care inequities continue to exact a devastating toll on women of color and their families,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “The entire Caucus and Congress salute Congresswoman Alma Adams and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood for their tireless, solutions-focused leadership in creating the Black Maternal Healthcare Caucus to advance life-saving progress for millions of black families from family planning through infancy and beyond.  This new coalition will be critical in helping Democrats honor our nation’s values of equality and fairness by righting the injustices faced by black women and ensuring that all American mothers and their children have access to the care they need to grow and thrive.”


“Racial disparities in maternal health have not improved in three decades. Regardless of educational attainment and income, Black women and their children are at risk.” said Founder and Black Maternal Health Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Adams. “As a Black mother and grandmother, I’m proud to launch the Black Maternal Health Caucus to ensure that Black women and infants have the rights, respect and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.”


“The statistics around black maternal health are horrifying, and they haven’t improved in thirty years as maternal health outcomes overall have worsened. But this issue extends beyond statistics for too many women and families, it’s their reality,” said Founder and Black Maternal Health Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Underwood.  “This issue demands unique Congressional attention and I’m so proud to lead this effort with Congresswoman Adams to elevate black maternal health as a national priority and explore and advocate for effective, evidence-based culturally-competent policies and best practices. The status quo is intolerable, we must come together to reverse current trends and achieve optimal birth outcomes for all families.”


“The likelihood that a mother survives child birth shouldn’t depend on the color of her skin or the size of her bank account,” said Rep. Katherine Clark, Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus. “The creation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus will allow us to put a spotlight on health outcomes disparities in our country and implement policies that promote better solutions for all communities.”


 “More women die from pregnancy related complications in the United States than any other developed country, with black women being three to four times more likely to die from complications than white women.  These numbers are staggering and black women deserve better,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The Black Maternal Health Caucus is an important body to help our nation develop a sustained and comprehensive strategy to reduce the untimely deaths of so many black women.  The caucus will lead on introducing legislation to address this epidemic and ensure the deaths of black women are not overlooked.”  


“In the United States of America, the quality of the care you receive should not depend on the color of your skin, where you live, or your ability to pay,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. “Adequate and proper maternal care ensures children start life out healthy and strong. In Michigan, I’ve spent my life fighting for improving maternal and children’s health. This important caucus will bring together critical stakeholders to address this crisis and improve the health of all families.”

“The United States has one of the worst rates of maternal death in the developed world—and the problem is especially pronounced for Black women,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “From higher mortality rates to higher rates of complications and infant mortality, the statistics are alarming. There are real people behind these facts and figures, and Congress should be doing better by them. That is why I am proud to stand with Black women as a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.”


 “Pregnant black women in America are dying at a rate of three to four times greater than white women, driving our country’s dismal maternal mortality rate higher than it was 25 years ago,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “As a member of the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Heath I am committed to working with my colleagues to address this injustice and ensure that mothers in America have critically-needed access to high-quality, affordable health care.”


“I am truly concerned with the idea that each year nearly 700 women in the U.S. die as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, and the risk of pregnancy-related death is three to four times as high for black women,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.The fight for human life must include the lives of pregnant black mothers. Through strong advocacy and effective policy the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal can bring a voice to a group of women who’s needs deserve to be heard. It is time we provide adequate resources to our expecting moms and help end this rising epidemic.”


“We cannot ignore the black maternal health crisis in this country,” said Rep. David Price. “In North Carolina, black women are nearly three times more likely than their white counterparts to die from pregnancy-related complications, regardless of class or education status. I’m pleased to be a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Health. It is critical for Congress to do more to advocate for black women and eradicate these racial disparities without delay.”


“It is a devastating shame that in the United States of America, the maternal mortality rate exceeds that of any other developed nation in the world. Even more tragic is the fact that African American women are dying during childbirth at a higher rate in our country than other subgroups. Many counties in North Carolina’s First Congressional District have maternal mortality rates that exceed national averages. We simply cannot and must not accept the status quo. I am encouraged to see that targeted healthcare programs for low-income women in my home State of North Carolina have been implemented to help close the maternal mortality race gap. We must work together to address this major problem and find solutions. Women should not have to die to give life, and I look forward to serving as a Member of the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Health to help tackle these pressing matters,” said Rep. G. K. Butterfield


“Maternal mortality is higher in the U.S. than in any other industrialized nation, and Black women are three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as white women,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “I’m joining the Black Maternal Health Caucus to help reverse this disturbing trend, raise awareness and create solutions to help Black moms and babies from every community get the care they need.” 


"Nationally, black infant mortality is more than twice as high as white infant mortality," said Rep. Marc Veasey. “These disturbing outcomes are not isolated to infants, currently black mothers in Texas face almost double the maternal mortality rate than the U.S. national average. Protecting the health of black mothers and infants needs to be a top priority for our country. While we are one of the world’s leaders in medical advancements, it is unconscionable that this country still has the highest maternal and infant mortality in the developed world. It’s unacceptable, and it’s why I’m proud to become a founding Member of the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Health to act on this critical health crisis in the black community.”


“It is an honor to be a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Health and I thank Reps. Adams and Underwood for launching it,” said Rep. Grace Meng. “The Caucus will shine an important light on the worsening national crisis of maternal health outcomes for Black women. It is appalling in this day and age that the world’s richest nation has the worst rates of maternal death among other developed countries. Not only must we raise awareness on this issue, but we need to develop and support solutions that improve Black maternal health. I commend Congresswoman Adams’ and Underwood’s vision and leadership and I look forward to ensuring Black maternal health improves in our nation.”


In a country as prosperous and blessed as the United States, the extreme disparity in maternal mortality rates for black mothers is simply unacceptable,” said Rep. Charlie Crist. “Let’s support mothers of color in our communities. Through the Black Maternal Health Caucus we can lift up solutions to this persistent and pernicious problem.


“All mothers and children deserve a healthy start no matter who they are or what their background. However, women of color experience far worse maternal health outcomes and this disparity is standing in the way of raising healthy families,” said Rep. Deb Haaland. “The Congressional Caucus on Black Maternal Health will be a guiding force to ensure that we close the gaps in health that black women experience when bringing children into the world.”


“No parent expecting a child should have to live in fear that their child will live without them because of our country’s faulty health care system,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib. “Unfortunately, we know that this is the case for many Black expectant mothers. This must change. I support the efforts of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to fight to see the standard of care elevated so that this fateful trend of high maternal mortality is put on a path to being stomped out entirely.”


 “After years of Congress focusing on efforts that would make access to health care out of reach for those most vulnerable in our communities, it’s great to see black congressional leaders focusing on what must be done to narrow disparities in our health care system,” said Dr. Jamila Taylor, Senior Fellow and Director of Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. “The formation of this caucus makes clear the imperative to confront the systemic racism that is yielding maternal mortality rates for black women that are three to four times as high as their white peers. We look forward to working with the Black Maternal Health Caucus and supporting its mission.”


“We are grateful to Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Underwood for creating a unique space to raise awareness on this issue and for creating a path forward to ensure that the human rights of Black mother are protected by making their health a national priority,” said Jennifer Jacoby Altscher, Federal Policy Counsel, Center for Reproductive Rights.


“The Black Mamas Matter Alliance is grateful to Congresswoman Adams and Congresswoman Underwood for their leadership in establishing the Black Maternal Health Caucus. This is truly a historic achievement that comes at a critical moment when action to improve Black maternal health experiences and outcomes is greatly needed,” said Elizabeth Dawes Gay, co-director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “We are hopeful that the Black Maternal Health Caucus will raise awareness among policymakers about maternal mortality and morbidity affecting the Black community and inspire meaningful legislative action. Thank you for insisting that Black Mamas Matter!”


Founding members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus include: Reps. Alma Adams*, Lauren Underwood*, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark, DPCC Co-Chair Debbie Dingell, DWC Co-Chair Brenda Lawrence, Susan Wild, Steve Cohen, Alcee Hastings, Danny K. Davis, Joe P. Kennedy III, Joyce Beatty, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Bobby Scott, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Barbara Lee, Haley Stevens, Donna Shalala, Julia Brownley, Ilhan Omar, Lois Frankel, Kim Schreier, Lizzie Fletcher, Cedric Richmond, Sanford Bishop, Al Lawson, Ayanna Pressley, , Lucy McBath, Deb Haaland, GK Butterfield, Marc Veasey, Grace Meng, Jackie Speier, Terri Sewell, Rashida Tlaib, Kathy Castor, Jan Schakowsky, David Price, Yvette Clarke, Charlie Crist, Suzanne Bonamici, Diana DeGette, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Karen Bass, James McGovern, Anna Eshoo, Rosa DeLauro, Kathleen Rice, Hank Johnson, Ami Bera, and Elijah Cummings