North Carolina NOW Legislative Update #12
19 April 2021
Black Maternal Health Week was observed in North Carolina with the introduction of Senate Bill 632,/House Bill 507, the North Carolina Momnibus Act, that targets the Black maternal health crisis in the state and addresses the gaps in reproductive health care during the pandemic. The maternal death rate is especially high in North Carolina. We rank 30th out of the 50 states. Nationally Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white or Hispanic women. The United States has the highest maternal death rate of all the Western democracies, and, most alarmingly, the rate has been rising.
The North Carolina bill is a companion bill to a federal bill with the same title sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams. Both the federal and state bills address social determinants, such as poverty, that increase the risk of pregnancy among Black woman and also the implicit bias of health care professionals that is believed to play a role in the disparate mortality rates among Black and white women. For example, a college-educated Black women is five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than her white counterpart. For an overview, see: https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2021/04/15/sweeping-legislation-aims-to-combat-black-maternal-mortality/
We definitely need more data and research on the Black maternal health crisis. The North Carolina bill (SB632/HB 507) establishes a task force to study the social determinants impacting the severe maternal morbidity rate among Black women in our state. It also addresses implicit bias by tasking the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to work with Black health professionals and an historically Black college or university to create or identify an evidence-based bias training program for health care professionals involved in perinatal care. Finally, the bill would establish a task force on the birthing experience and safe maternal care during a national health emergency.
If the studies mandated in this bill are completed, there will need to be follow-up legislation and appropriations to implement the findings. Other major changes in health care, such as expanding Medicaid will also need to be implemented to fully address this huge problem.
See whole legislative update, including summary and bills we are tracking, at NC NOW Legislative Update #12 – 19 April 2021.