Mass. legislators addressing alarming maternal mortality rates

BOSTON — Proposed legislation is aimed at giving more funding to maternal healthcare research.

Women in the United States, and right here in the Bay State, are more likely to die from issues in pregnancy and childbirth than any other women in high-income countries.

And African American women are 243 times more likely to die from these issues.

"My baby is due at the end of May," expectant mother Tulia Vandunk said. "The second time around, I was very intentional in laying out my expectations the first meeting with my midwife."

The second-time mom plans to do things differently this time, starting with her doctor and where she plans to deliver her baby.

Vandunk says during her first preganancy, doctors and nurses often didn’t communicate important information to her and were relucant to listen to her concerns and wishes -- including involving her husband in the process.

"There were tests that were conducted that I didn’t know about -- that it wasn’t fully explained to me," she said.

Vandunk isn't alone, and maternal mortality was one of the topics at a healthcare and justice-focused legislative lunch as part of Alpha Kappa Alpha Day at the Massachusetts state house.

"Black women are four times and in some cases in some states, 8 times more likely than their white pregnant women sisters," Rep. Elizabeth Miranda (D - Suffolk) said.

Boston 25 News has been reporting for more than a year on the alarming maternal mortality numbers in the United States revealed by the Centers for Disease Control.

Women of color, specifically black women, are 243 percent more likely to die due to complications in pregancy and child birth than white women.

Public health leaders say lack of research, communitcation and implicit bias in the medical field, are the leading factors to poor health outcomes for pregnant women nationally.

"In 104 years -- since 1915 -- black women have been dying and the only reason we can think that it’s happening is the racism in our healthcare," Rep. Miranda said.

She has filed a package of bills aimed at improving maternal mortality and infant mortality rates for people of color.

The bills would create legislative committees to study the issue and appropriate funds to research where needed.

"It’s incredibly important that we form commissions through law that we can study issues that are a public health crisis," Rep. Miranda said. "And maternal mortality is a public health crisis.”

Rep. Miranda and public health educators have been holding maternal justice forums with doulas and moms. The package of bills is making its way through the legislative process.

MORE: Moms of color dying in childbirth at rates 4x higher than white counterparts