As part of Black Maternal Health Week, Pennsylvania State Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-192nd Dist.) participated in an online forum last Monday focusing on her ongoing fight to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Pennsylvania — a phenomenon that disproportionately impacts women of color.
The Oshun Family Center hosted the webinar titled “Black Maternal Health: Advancing the Village to Hold the Mother,” where Cephas discussed her package of bills that would:
*Offer Medicaid coverage for doulas (H.B. 2109).
*Expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum women (H.B. 2108).
*Add “severe maternal morbidity” to the list of reportable events within the Pennsylvania Department of Health (H.B. 2107).
*Require implicit bias training for health care professionals (H.B. 2110).
“Access to quality health care should never be based on a person’s skin color or zip code,” Cephas said. “However, the maternal mortality rate for women of color remains disproportionately higher than White women and demands collective and immediate action. From legislators to stakeholders, we must come together and work to secure funding, develop policies and pass laws that result in better health outcomes.”
“Black Maternal Health Week has been a passion project for the Maternal Wellness Village and me, due to the personal impact on our lives,” said Saleemah McNeil, founder of Oshun Family Center. “There is strength in numbers, and we rose to the occasion by giving a voice to unheard Black women!”
As the commonwealth combats COVID-19, Cephas also emphasized the need for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health to closely monitor the racial demographics of reported cases and track how many are pregnant women experiencing birth or newborn complications. “There’s no room for discrimination during a pandemic,” she said. “If there’s a correlation between race and care, the issue must be addressed and resolved sooner rather than later. We have to ensure that one public health crisis does not overshadow another, nor leave room for one to worsen another.” Cephas joined advocates from New Voices for Reproductive Justice, In Our Own Voice and Maternal Wellness Village for the digital conversation. Black Maternal Health Week takes place every year from April 11–17 to highlight the need to advance health equity across the country on behalf of all racial and ethnic minorities.