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Gillibrand pushing legislation that would address maternal mortality among Black women

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks in Syracuse Mon. January 24, 2022

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 recent visit to Syracuse, 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,” said Gillibrand. “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,” Gillibrand 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 CDC, the maternal mortality rate in Onondaga County is 85% higher than the national average.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.