Padilla, Warnock Introduce Legislation to Improve Maternal Health Outcomes, Curb Rising Maternal Mortality Rate in U.S.

Introduced during Women’s History Month, The Kira Johnson Act would provide funding to community-based organizations leading the charge to improve maternal health outcomes, particularly for Black women, in California, Georgia and across the country

This bill is included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, an effort to end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes

Led by Sens. Padilla and Rev. Warnock, the bill creates a 5-year, $50M grant program in HHS to improve outcomes and reduce bias, racism, and discrimination in maternal care settings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), joined by their colleagues U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), introduced legislation aimed at improving maternal health outcomes. The Kira Johnson Act directly addresses the maternal mortality crisis by providing funding directly to local organizations already doing the work to ensure mothers, including Black moms and other birthing people of color, do not lose their lives bringing new life into the world. Kira Johnson, a 39-year-old Black mother for whom this legislation is named, lost her life after a scheduled c-section while giving birth to her second child.

The legislation is included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a series of 12 bills that focus on closing racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, and saving and improving moms’ lives before, during and after giving birth. The bill also supports bias and racism training programs, research, and the establishment of Respectful Maternity Care Compliance Programs to address bias and racism, and to promote accountability in maternity care settings.

“Black women are dying at alarming rates due to disparities in our healthcare system – and this has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Padilla. “I’m proud to lead this critical legislation with Senator Warnock that honors the life of Kira Johnson by investing in our local communities to address systematic disparities and racial bias in our health care system. We cannot ignore this public health crisis any longer.”

“Georgia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation; the mortality rate for Black mothers in Georgia is more than 6 times higher than their counterparts, and it is rising. The Kira Johnson Act is a first step to address this public health crisis by giving community-based organizations the resources they need to improve maternal health incomes,” said Senator Warnock. “As a senator for the state of Georgia, I remain committed to expanding access to reproductive and maternal health care for all Georgians, regardless of zip code or income.”

The Kira Johnson Actwill:

  • Provide funding to community-based organizations to improve maternal health outcomes for Black pregnant and postpartum people and Women of Color, as well as birthing people from other underserved communities.
  • Support pregnant and postpartum people with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
  • Address social determinants of health like housing, transportation, and nutrition.
  • Support midwifery practices.
  • Support doulas and other perinatal health workers who support pregnant and postpartum people.
  • Provide funding for grant programs to implement and study consistent bias, racism, and discrimination trainings for all employees in maternity care settings.
  • Provide funding to establish Respectful Maternity Care Compliance Programs within hospitals to provide mechanisms for pregnant and postpartum patients to report instances of disrespect or evidence of racial, ethnic, or other types of bias and promote accountability.

The Kira Johnson Act is endorsed by more than 160 organizations, listed HERE.

Read the full text of the bill HERE.