U.S. maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world and increased by 26.6 percent between 2000 and 2014. Considering that about 4,000,000 American women give birth each year, about 700 suffer fatal complications during pregnancy, labor or during the postpartum period. Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Harris plans to address these health realities with the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act — also called the Maternal CARE Act — which will allow for $30 million to be used toward saving mothers’ lives.
States would get $25 million to “incentivize healthcare providers to reduce mortality rates and racial disparities” from fiscal years 2019 through 2023. An additional $5 million would go toward implicit bias training at medical schools and health programs, especially obstetrics and gynecology instruction during those years; the money would also help teach the National Academy of Medicine to determine how to incorporate bias recognition into medical schools.
Harris, who is a 2020 presidential election hopeful and the sole Black woman in the Senate, is continuing her work as the former California Attorney General with the new bill. The Democrat implemented training to respond to biases in law enforcement during her previous tenure, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Implicit bias has become an important policy issue, as Harris knows that racial stereotypes can greatly impact how Black mothers are treated when it comes to medical care.
“A large part of it is the biases that exist in the medical health professions that lead to these women not being taken seriously,” she said. “Frankly, there are a lot of biases that exist .… It’s a truth, uncomfortable as it may be.”