Sen. Kaine discusses maternal mortality rate and bill during virtual roundtable


VIRGINIA (WAVY)- Sen. Tim Kaine and health professionals across the state discussed maternal mortality and COVID-19 during a virtual roundtable Friday morning.

The event was held in partnership with the Virginia Rural Health Association. Kaine spoke and took questions from those about their needs to help cut down on geographical disparities for maternal mortality, as well as racial disparities.

According to the CDC, Black and Native American women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

Kaine introduced a bill, the Mothers and Newborns Success Act, last week with Alaskan state Sen. Lisa Murkowski. It aims to chip away at the problems causing these high rates.

“Education, research, public awareness, innovation, grants, programs: that’s what it’s going to take to whip this disparity,” Kaine said about what’s included in the bill.

The senator says there’s a number of reasons why Black and Native American women face these issues: all of them are preventable, he said.

“This a deep, deep problem where you can’t explain the disparity without getting into the long history of racism — that has left minority communities with significantly fewer resources, less access to healthcare and higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions — and in real-time, in current time, [there’s] a sad tendency for the complaints of some not to be viewed the same way as others,” he said.

He says that studies have shown that despite class, women among these races still have issues, as seen publically with Serena Williams and Beyonce. Both of them experienced complications during their pregnancies.

“This is a really tough issue but it’s demonstratable that this is not a resource issue, but a racism issue,” he said.

Kaine says the bill will provide grant funding for research, education, and training that is needed for professionals.

He’s optimistic about the bill, which took a year to craft because Virginia faced a similar issue with infant mortality rates when he was governor.

Kaine says by targeting certain areas and issues, they were able to bring rates down and that’s what he hopes this bill will do.

“Having worked on that in the past, I approached this issue with a sense of optimism. If we do it and really focus our energy and intention on the communities where the need is the greatest, we can make significant differences,” he said.

With the recent inclusion of pregnant women added to those who may be at a higher risk to contract the coronavirus, Kaine hopes that this could be included in COVID-19 legislation.

To read more about the Mothers and Newborns Success Act, click here.

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