Nearly 70% of Alabama’s pregnancy-related deaths in 2016 were preventable, according to a report this month from the state Department of Public Health and Maternal Mortality Review Committee. The committee recommended that Alabama improve maternal health by expanding Medicaid coverage and increasing resources and services for women with mental health and substance use disorders. The report also recommended improving Medicaid reimbursement for providers and encouraging broader education of mothers and families regarding the various health issues identified as maternal death risk factors and their warning signs.
Partner organizations in the Cover Alabama Coalition released the following statements Thursday in response:
Jane Adams, Campaign Director, Alabama Arise:
“Thirty-six Alabama mothers died in 2016 from causes linked to their pregnancies. Their children will go to bed tonight – and every night – without their birth mother there to tuck them in. And for 70% of these kids, their mother’s death was preventable. This report is a haunting reminder that poverty and access to health insurance are significant drivers of maternal mortality in Alabama. We encourage Gov. Kay Ivey, Commissioner Stephanie Azar and our legislators to save lives and protect families by expanding Medicaid to cover mothers before, during and after pregnancy.”
Jada Shaffer, Government Relations Regional Director, American Heart Association:
“We urge the Legislature and Governor Ivey to immediately implement the reforms the Maternal Mortality Review Committee recommends. In 2016, cardiovascular-related conditions were the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths in Alabama. When women lack health insurance, they are less likely to get treatment for preexisting conditions and are much more likely to die during or after pregnancy. Improving maternal health outcomes will require expanding Medicaid and equitably providing access to care for all Alabama families.”
Dr. John S. Meigs, President, Medical Association of the State of Alabama:
“The Medical Association of the State of Alabama commends the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) for its diligence in researching the factors that impact maternal deaths, in hopes to mitigate and prevent future maternal deaths. It is very concerning for physicians throughout the state that 70% of the deaths reviewed by the MMRC were preventable and that women of color are disproportionately affected. Alabama mothers deserve the best medical care that we can offer. To that end, the Medical Association supports the MMRC’s recommendation of expanding Medicaid coverage for women postpartum beyond where it is today, as well as informing our communities that mental health and substance abuse issues can contribute to maternal mortality. Physicians have a responsibility to help mothers get the medical care that they need and deserve.”
Dr. Nadia Richardson, Executive Director, No More Martyrs:
“In Alabama, Black women are dying at three to four times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related complications. In 2016, thirty-six mothers died because they did not have consistent access to care. We fail mothers when they are forced to drive two counties over to see their OB-GYN for a check-up because they live in one of 29 Alabama counties that have lost obstetrical services.
“Now is not the time to turn a blind eye to health disparities rooted in injustice and indifference. Now is not a time to ignore the impact that this continued neglect has on the mental, physical and holistic wellness of Black women in our state. Now is not the time to pretend that these inequities are not remnants of a history that we have yet to come to terms with – a history of racism and sexism that remains embedded throughout our health care system. Now is the time to demand more. Alabama leaders must accelerate progress on ending maternal mortality by investing in access to quality and affordable health care.”
Britta E. Cedergren, MPH, MPA, Associate Director, Postpartum Care, March of Dimes:
“The health of a society is measured by the health of its moms and babies. In Alabama, we are not only facing the crisis of one in eight babies being born too sick, too soon, but mothers dying from potentially preventable causes. In the inaugural report by the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee, we found that two-thirds of women die between 43 and 365 days postpartum. When moms have access to high-quality, equitable and uninterrupted care, outcomes can improve. Fully expanding, or even extending Medicaid for a full year postpartum, while only one step in combating the crisis of moms dying from pregnancy related causes, is a big step that can improve the health and well-being of all Alabamians.
Rev. Carolyn Foster, Faith in Community Coordinator, Greater Birmingham Ministries:
“It is our moral responsibility to care for one another. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a mandate in many of our faith traditions. It is the most basic command in our religious tradition. We cannot stand by or look the other way or cross on the other side when people suffer. To do so is to turn one’s back on God because ‘when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.’ Access to health care would be life-giving to many who are vulnerable. We are our sister’s and brother’s keepers. And we must bear one another’s burdens. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ We strongly urge the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey to increase access to quality affordable health insurance by expanding Medicaid.”
Holly Caraway McCorkle, Executive Director, Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare:
“The Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare urges policymakers to act quickly to increase access to coverage by expanding Medicaid in Alabama. Sadly, the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in almost half of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths. These deaths are preventable, and Medicaid expansion will offer women who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders life-saving coverage and access to critically needed resources and services before, during and after pregnancies.”
Kim Cochran, Vice President, External Affairs, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham:
“A recent report by Alabama’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee revealed that the maternal mortality rate is rising in the United States. Alabama’s rate is the second highest in the nation and disproportionately affects Black women. Even more alarming, 70% of the maternal deaths in Alabama were deemed preventable. As identified by the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, Medicaid expansion could reduce Alabama’s maternal deaths and change the narrative for women. A region, state or county’s ability to keep women and children alive during and after childbirth speaks volumes about our economic, social and political fabric. I urge our lawmakers to stand up for women and expand Medicaid to help reduce our state’s maternal mortality rate and provide health care coverage for an additional 152,000 women.”