On Tuesday, January 28, two subcommittees of the House Committee on Education and Labor, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and the Subcommittee on Pensions and Workforce Protections conducted a hearing entitled Expecting More: Addressing America’s Maternal and Infant Health Crisis.
Testimony was given by three witnesses: Stacey Stewart, CEO of March of Dimes, Nikia Sankofa, Executive Director of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, and Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
Chairwoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) opening statement addressed the importance of expanding Medicaid in all states, as Medicaid covers 43% of all births, making sure we are enrolling eligible families in WIC, and addressing structural racism that negatively affects health outcomes.
The witnesses then each gave a statement. Stacey Stewart, in particular, talked about supporting child welfare by speaking about the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the WIC nutrition program. She spoke to how the ACA eliminated lifetime caps and forbid denying people for having preexisting conditions and is improving health outcomes for vulnerable families. She also noted the benefits of the WIC program by stating that, “the WIC program reduces infant mortality by one-third during the first year of life for participants and lowers the risk of preterm birth for expectant mothers.”
Several committee members also asked questions of the witnesses, including Representative Phil Roe (R-TN), who asked about why preterm births and maternal morbidity are on the rise in the country. Dr. Crear-Perry noted that increased rates of elective C-sections have likely contributed to increased morbidity rates as women are more likely to hemorrhage during surgery. Dr. Crear-Perry also spoke about how the decline of community health centers in the last decades could contribute to a rise in preterm births as women have less access to care. She noted that maternal health deserts are negatively impacting maternal and infant health.
Several witnesses endorsed the passage of a number of bills currently in congress. These include, but are not limited too, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (H.R. 1379/S. 560), the Healthy Maternity and Obstetric Medicine Act (H.R. 2745/S. 1481), the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (H.R. 1185/S. 463), the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mother Act (H.R. 5592, S. 3170), and the Community Access, Resources, and Education for Families Act (H.R. 3117).