Senators Padilla, Warnock Team Up to Discuss Maternal Health Crisis in New Video
The Kira Johnson Act, originally introduced during Women’s History Month in April, directly addresses the maternal mortality crisis by providing direct funding to local organizations already doing the work to ensure mothers of color do not lose their lives during childbirth.
The bill would create a five-year, $50 million grant program to improve health outcomes, as well as reduce bias, racism and discrimination in maternal care settings.
***WATCH SENATORS WARNOCK & PADILLA DISCUSS THE KIRA JOHNSON ACT HERE ***
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) released a video discussing the maternal mortality crisis disproportionately affecting women of color and congressional efforts aimed at improving maternal health outcomes—specifically the Kira Johnson Act. Kira Johnson, a 39-year-old Black mother from California, for whom the legislation is named, lost her life after a scheduled c-section while giving birth to her second child.
The Kira Johnson Act—included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021—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 nation. Senators Padilla and Warnock are pushing for the legislation to get a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Since arriving in the Senate in January 2021, Senator Padilla has been a staunch advocate for equitable, accessible, and affordable health care services. He has introduced several pieces of legislation to address the health care needs of vulnerable populations like the Urban Indian Health Providers Facilities Improvement Act, the Women’s Health Protection Act, and most recently, announced that he will introduce the Pediatric Access to Critical Healthcare (PATCH) Act, which will provide funding to improve pediatric capacity and support workforce retention.
The Kira Johnson Act will:
- 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; and
- 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.
Watch the full video HERE.
Full transcript of U.S. Senators Warnock and Padilla’s video below:
Senator Warnock: “Hello, I’m Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock from Georgia.”
Senator Padilla: And I’m Senator Alex Padilla from California. Happy to be here with my friend, my colleague, Senator Warnock, to discuss an issue that’s important to both of us—the maternal health crisis in America, and to talk about a bill that we’re working on together, the Kira Johnson Act, which seeks address this crisis”
Sen. Warnock: “Senator, can you begin by telling us who Kira Johnson was?”
Sen. Padilla: “Kira Johnson, constituent from, was from Los Angeles, a 39-year-old young mother, after a scheduled Cesarean for her second child to be born was victim of some bad medical attention, ended up passing away, leaving her two children and a young family behind. And I think her case is just so emblematic of the discrepancies in health care, particularly for women of color and young mothers of color that we’re seeking to address in this bill.”
Sen. Warnock: “So, we’ve seen up close this tragic implication of the maternal health crisis. Black women are over three times more likely to die during childbirth, or as a result of childbirth, than their white counterparts. And I think Kira Johnson is an excellent example, because here is a woman with means, with insurance, and you still see this disparity. And, so, it’s something that you and I both been very concerned about, which is why we are addressing this issue through legislation.”
Sen. Padilla: “Right, and as you mentioned, her family did not hesitate to speak up and that was great because whether it’s health care, and making sure doctors meet our needs or in the case of a young mother, things like postpartum depression and other issues, it’s something that we need to talk about more. So, Kira was from California, you represent Georgia. What’s the situation in Georgia?”
Sen. Warnock: “Georgia is emblematic of the problem—we see this huge gap in case, and we see a difference in the standard of care for Black women, women of color, and their white sisters. And, so, as a result of this, we see tragic cases like Kira Johnson’s all the time in the state of Georgia. And I just think it’s so very important for us to address this, which is why you and I have introduced legislation—the Kira Johnson Act—to speak to this issue.”
Sen. Padilla: “I’m excited about this bill because I know that it’s going to put resources where they’re needed to address that discrepancy in health care, but also to provide mothers the support—including mental health support—that they need at such a critical time. And encourage not just women, who we a lot of time just defer to the mom to be concerned about health care for our families, but to get men and men of color caring about this and talking about this as well.”
Sen. Warnock: “And the issue of postpartum depression that you raise is so very important. And it’s not uncommon at all for women to experience postpartum depression. It’s something we don’t talk nearly enough about. And I think it’s important for people to know that to seek care and to create communities of care where folks who are giving birth feel supported, is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength and a sign of beloved community. I’m so honored to do this work with you.”
Sen. Padilla: “It’s great for all families.”
The Kira Johnson Act is endorsed by more than 160 organizations, listed HERE.
Read the full text of the bill HERE.