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Health

Gillibrand pushing legislation to address maternal mortality among Black women

 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sitting at a cafe table
Jacob Walsh
/
CITY
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sat down with CITY recently to discuss a wide-range of topics, from rising gun violence to economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is pushing for legislation that would provide more funds for two programs that would help deal with maternal health among Black women.

During a visit to Syracuse this week, Gillibrand said gaps in maternal care for Black women has become a crisis, noting Black women in the U.S. are nearly three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

“A lot of times in particular for Black maternal death, it happens from giving birth to within a year. And sometimes the overuse of cesarean section, sometimes that results in high blood pressure and other conditions that result in death for Black women,” Gillibrand said. “So there are real consequences from the decision doctors are making in childbirth.”

There are two bills Gillibrand said would help: a $7 million piece of legislation would fund health care training programs to reduce implicit bias in the medical community and a $25 million proposal to establish a program to deliver integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers.

“Sometimes a woman while giving birth starts to bleed out quickly, and if you don’t have the technology and equipment on hand to stop bleeding immediately she will die,” she said. “Not every hospital room has that on hand. So one of these bills has the resources for these emergency baby bundles in every emergency room where deliveries are being done.”

Joining Gillibrand in Syracuse was Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens, who said this bill is personal for her. When she was 27, she gave birth prematurely to a child who died five days later. She said she was in no condition to give birth at that time.

“Eight years later I’m back in the hospital,” Owens said. “I’m eight years older, eight years more savvy, eight years more equipped to advocate for myself, and eight years later ready to tell the hospital how I wanted to have my baby. Not everyone has that.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wide racial and ethnic gaps exist between non-Hispanic Black (37.3 deaths per 100,000 live births) and non-Hispanic white (14.9) women.

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