WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), introduced a resolution recognizing January 23 as Maternal Health Awareness Day. New Jersey was the first state to recognize January 23 as Maternal Health Awareness Day in 2018. Since that time, another state, advocacy and community-based organizations, and others have used this date to raise awareness about maternal health, educate health care providers about maternal deaths, and encourage women, families and providers to recognize and discuss potential signs of an emergency. The United States is the only developed nation to have experienced an increase in maternal mortality in recent decades, with the pregnancy-related mortality ratio doubling between 1987 and 2016.
“The exceptionally high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity are unacceptable in a nation that spends more on health care per capita than any other country in the world,” said Sen. Booker. “The fact that these negative outcomes are disproportionately concentrated among American Indian and Alaska Native women and black women—who are two and three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes—reminds us that maternal health is a matter of justice. We have a responsibility not only to increase awareness of maternal health and start much-needed conversations, but also to address the structural, historical, and social causes of this public health crisis.”
“Maternal health must be a priority in this country and in our state,” said Sen. Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy. “It’s absolutely unacceptable that maternal mortality rates have increased in our nation over the past few decades. I’ll continue working to protect the Affordable Care Act and push for increased funding to ensure women of all backgrounds can continue receiving the quality, affordable health care they need and deserve while pregnant.”
“Maternal health in the United States is in a state of crisis,” said Sen. Harris. “We must have a sense of urgency in addressing this issue. As we recognize Maternal Health Awareness Day, I am proud to join Senator Booker in renewing our call for widespread focus on maternal health, resources to aid in the elimination of disparities in maternal health outcomes, and access to comprehensive, culturally competent care for all women —especially Black and Native women.”
Senator Booker’s resolution notes that more than 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable and recognizes community-based maternal health models that have been proven to improve the health of mothers throughout the country. Because one-third of maternal mortality cases occur one week to one year postpartum, expanding access to health care after delivery is an important step to saving the lives of new mothers. This resolution complements Booker’s MOMMIES Act, re-introduced in the Senate in May, which would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from the current cap of 60 days to a full year.
Full text of the resolution can be found here.