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Gillibrand renews push to reduce maternal mortality rates

The Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards Act, or MOMS, would provide additional federal funding, equipment and training.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announces Sunday her renewed push

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announces Sunday her renewed push for the Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards Act at her office in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has renewed her push for legislation that could help reduce maternal mortality rates across the country.

The Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards Act, or MOMS, would provide federal funding for equipment and training of health care providers as well as have experts put together best-practice guidelines to prevent maternal death.

“We have to protect and value mothers in this country,” said Gillibrand, who has two sons, during a Sunday news conference at her Manhattan office with women’s health care advocates.

She first unveiled the bill in August, where it stalled in the Senate. She has introduced it again at the start of the new session of Congress.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) pointed to statistics showing the New York State maternal mortality rate has shot up by 60 percent over the last 10 years. In the city, black women are about 12 times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy and in childbirth because of complications, she said.

“We are not doing nearly enough to protect women and their babies, and we are not doing nearly enough to end the institutional racism in our health care system,” Gillibrand said.

She recounted heartbreaking stories of women who died or suffered serious complications after childbirth. In some cases, health care providers didn’t listen to their concerns.

“Too many of our hospitals are just not equipped or prepared to deal with these emergencies when they happen,” she said.

Alia McCants recounted her harrowing tale of a postpartum hemorrhage that almost took her life after giving birth to twins in 2014.

“It seemed like the kind of thing that happened somewhere else where women didn’t have the access to quality maternal care,” said McCants, who later wondered if she received a different level of care because she was black.

Monifa Bandele, senior vice president of Maternal Justice Programs at Moms Rising, said the legislation is vital because it will standardize protocol and increase training to “help mitigate bias.”

Christy Turlington Burns, the supermodel turned activist, put her support behind the legislation, noting her own experience with postpartum hemorrhage opened her eyes and her heart about maternal mortality.

She started the group “Every Mother Counts,” which campaigns for equitable maternal care for women across the globe.

“I learned that things can change in an instant,” she said.

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