I had originally posted this October 27, but had technical issues with my website.
A shameful aspect of the United States of America is our high infant mortality rates and maternal mortality rates compared with other developed nations. Well into the twenty-first century, there is no excuse for this.
Out of the most developed countries, the U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate: only countries that were formerly under communism until the end of the Cold War have higher rates in Europe. As with so many of the problems in this country, racism is sadly a big part of the problem. African-Americans have the highest infant mortality rate: over twice the rate of white Americans. A bit lower but also more than twice the rate of white Americans is the rate of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders. At nearly twice the rate of white Americans are Native Americans.
Maternal mortality is also at a crisis level in America, which has the highest maternal mortality among developed nations and it and even getting worse. Here, too, there is a glaring racial disparity: new African-American mothers and mothers-to-be are some three times more likely to die compared with white mothers. For Alaskan Native and Native American new mothers and mothers-to-be, they are twice as likely to die as white women.
I may be a white man, but I don’t need to be a woman, mother, Native American, or African-American to be outraged by this unacceptable, disgraceful situation. We must act now.
That is why I am proposing the Save American Babies and Mothers Study Act. This act will task the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the agencies under its oversight at its discretion with colleting infant and maternal mortality data all across U.S. States, territories, tribal nations, and the District of Colombia over the course of a fiscal year, and then to produce a report within one quarter, in order to determine the bottom performing quarter in terms of hospitals and other birthing facilities across the nation. The report will identify opportunities for training, funding, staffing, and improved equipment that can all be resourced to these facilities to achieve better health outcomes for all Americans overall but also particularly for those who suffer the most disparities in health outcomes. It will identify how much those improvements will cost as well. The categories that will be organized for data collection for the bottom-performers will be overall but also those with the largest racial and ethnic health disparities, including African-Americans, Native Americans, and other groups where significant disparities are applicable.
Once that report is completed, I will author and propose further legislation: the Save American Babies and Mothers Act that will appropriate the funding requested by the HHS report to improve maternal and infant care at the bottom 25% in terms of performance across the aforementioned categories over the course of a two-year plan to partner with federal, state, tribal, and local authorities to improve the bottom-performing facilities. At the end, then those facilities will be studied again by HHS and its appropriate agencies to measure progress over the course of the fourth year. With time, resources, and expert oversight and guidance, we can save the lives of many babies and mothers in a country where we should lead the world, not be embarrassed by our performance taking care of these precious members of our society.
When it comes to the health of our babies and mothers, as one of the richest countries in the world, there is no reason America should be outdone by French or Canadians in caring for mothers and babies. And as part of this, I call on all Republican-led states that have refused to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to do so as soon as their legislatures can pass the bills and send them to their governors. We already know this would decrease mortality rates, particularly mortality rates for African-Americans. And I will work to pass these bills in a bipartisan manner. Republicans talk a lot about caring for the lives of babies, so here is a chance for them to put their money where their mouth is.
We can save many more mothers and babies than we are now, particularly African-American and Native-American mothers and babies. Especially given their unique centuries of oppression suffered in our history, this is the least we can do to provide their new moms and newborns a better chance to actually live.