Cephas applauds Biden administration for highlighting national Black Maternal Health Week, reintroduces maternal health package

HARRISBURG, April 13 – In an effort to raise awareness of the maternal health disparities in communities of color, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation to officially recognize this week as Black Maternal Health Week, an action applauded by Rep. Morgan Cephas, D- Phila.

According to the CDC’s Vital Signs report, approximately 700 women die each year from pregnancy-related complications. The study found 31% occurred during pregnancy, 36% occurred while giving birth or within the week after, and 33% occurred between one week and one year after giving birth. Black women are three times more likely to die during or after delivery than other women.

Cephas said Philadelphia is not untouched by maternal mortality. According to the most recent report conducted by the Philadelphia Maternal Morality review team, Philadelphia’s rate of pregnancy-related deaths from 2013 to 2018 was approximately 20 per 100,000 live births. That’s higher than the 2018 national rate of 17.4 per 100,000 live births. The report indicates health disparities also plague Philadelphia. Between 2013-2018, there were 110 pregnancy-associated deaths in Philadelphia. Of those, 73% were non-Hispanic Black women, despite making up 43% of the births during that timeframe.

“It’s clear that the Biden administration has made it a goal to ensure that all women have access to health care before, during, and after pregnancy, regardless of skin color, race, or location,” said Cephas. “It’s encouraging to see these important conversations happening on the federal level. It could lead to serious and necessary change for the commonwealth and the nation.”

Black maternal health is a topic Cephas has been working to address since joining the state legislature and just this week she re-introduced several bills aimed at making health care in Pennsylvania more equitable across racial and socioeconomic lines. Cephas has four bills in her legislative package to combat maternal mortality and morbidity that would:

  • 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. (HB1173)
  • Add “severe maternal morbidity” to the list of reportable events in the PA Department of Health for proper data reporting. (HB1174)
  • 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. (HB1175)
  • 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. (HB1176)

“It’s unconscionable that women are facing health disparities based on how they look or how much money they have. My legislation would go a long way toward closing the healthcare gap and make sure that all women have the access to care they deserve -- before, during and after pregnancy,” said Cephas.

Cephas also applauded Gov. Tom Wolf after he released a video marking this week as Black Maternal Health Week, another effort that shows broad support for this important topic on the state level.

In December 2020, the Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee released its first statewide report since established in 2018.