Biden, Black Maternal Health

Biden Reaffirms Commitment To Fight Black Maternal Health Crisis

President Joe Biden voiced his administration's efforts to tackle the maternal health crisis Black women in America are facing.

In recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, April 11 through April 17, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation during Black Maternal Health Week 2024. The administration continues to address the maternal health crisis plaguing the nation, which disproportionately impacts Black mothers.

According to The White House, President Biden shared his administration’s efforts to tackle this issue from the outset. The crisis centers on the alarmingly high rates of pregnancy-related deaths among American women, surpassing those of any other developed country. “Black women face even more risk and are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women,” Biden stated, attributing this disparity to “a long history of systemic racism and bias,” lack of access to safe housing, affordable transportation, and healthy food.

Biden highlighted his administration’s actions, such as the American Rescue Plan, which enabled states to provide a full year of postpartum coverage to Medicaid recipients, up from the previous 60-day limit. Currently, 45 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer this extended care.

The administration also made Affordable Care Act coverage more accessible, saving families an average of $800 annually on health insurance premiums. Additionally, they released the Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, outlining federal actions to combat maternal mortality and improve maternal health. “We created a new ‘Birthing-Friendly’ hospital designation…ensuring expecting mothers know where to go to get the help they need,” the president said. In 2023, BLACK ENTERPRISE noted some Black women had stepped away from the hospital model as their hospital and medical office visits felt rushed, routine, and impersonal. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of Black women who opted for home births or giving birth in a birth center increased by 30%.

Recognizing the prevalence of maternal mental health conditions, Biden discussed the administration’s launch of the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a confidential, 24/7 resource connecting women with professional counselors. “Mental healthcare is healthcare — it is so important that women have access to it throughout pregnancy and beyond,” Biden said. “We know that being able to access support in times of need literally saves lives.”

To support maternal mental health screening and substance use disorder treatment, the administration partners with community organizations while also working to expand and diversify the maternal health workforce. Biden signed legislation mandating reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant and nursing mothers, respecting their rights and job security.

The president acknowledges Vice President Kamala Harris’ commitment to improving maternal health outcomes by elevating the issue and assembling experts and activists. Harris has been dedicated to her fight to raise awareness and demand action. In 2021, she hosted the inaugural federal Maternal Health Day of Action at the White House, the first year The White House officially recognized Black Maternal Health Week.

Acknowledging the long-standing inequities faced by Black communities, Biden expressed his commitment to ending discrimination in housing, improving public transit accessibility, expanding access to healthy and affordable food, and addressing environmental injustices that impact Black mothers’ health and wellness.