Cephas introduces legislation to combat maternal mortality, calls on state leaders to pursue provision in American Rescue Plan

HARRISBURG, March 18 – Continuing her efforts to quell maternal morbidity, state Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., has recently introduced several bills that would make maternal health care in Pennsylvania more equitable across racial and socioeconomic lines.

The bill introductions come in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives passing the American Rescue Plan, which allows states to extend Medicaid to up to 1-year postpartum.

Cephas, who serves as vice-chair of the PA Women’s Health Caucus and treasurer of the Women’s Caucus, has been at the forefront in the fight to combat maternal mortality across Pennsylvania, said health care is the most disparate it has ever been, with race-based and class-based implicit biases and discrimination that results in compounding the effects of iniquity felt by marginalized and underserved patients.

“Women of color are still three times as likely to die giving birth than other women -- this is racism in medicine at play and it’s unacceptable,” Cephas said. “Access to quality and affordable care should never be based on skin color, income or Zip code, and my legislation would help abolish these discriminatory practices that result in highly fatal outcomes from our medical systems. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunity presented to us so that Pennsylvania’s women have access to the care they need and deserve.”

Cephas’ four bills aim to:

  • Require the secretary of the PA Department of Human Services to apply for a waiver that would extend Medicaid coverage for pregnancy-related and postpartum medical assistance for up to an additional 10 months.

  • Add “severe maternal morbidity” to the list of reportable events in the PA Department of Health for proper data reporting.

  • Extend Medicaid coverage to doula services and create a Doula Advisory Board, which would be responsible for determining the approved accreditation organizations for doulas, the competencies that should be required to ensure doulas are properly equipped to serve the mothers of Pennsylvania and setting standards based on best practices for doula professionals.

  • Require all health-related boards overseen by the PA Department of State to institute implicit bias training as part of each profession’s continuing education requirements.