Today marks the end of Black Maternal Health Week, a week dedicated to deepening the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US, amplifying solutions, centering the voices of Black mothers and enhancing community organizing around Black maternal health.

I’d like to outline a key portion of a letter I wrote to Governor Holcomb, urging him to expand Medicaid access for new mothers:

“Race is a social determinant in the overlap between high rates of maternal mortality and the egregious rates of infant mortality. According to the CDC, Black and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women experienced higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths than all other racial/ethnic groups. Indiana Department of Health data has long shown that Black infant mortality rates exceed those of any other ethnic group. Data on infant mortality rates in Marion County shows that Black infant mortality numbers consistently surpass those of the white-majority.”

The fight for Black mothers is ongoing, and this week helps to highlight some of the important steps we can take to reduce Black maternal mortality rates. This past legislative session, I made it a priority to elevate the voices of Black mothers and I put forward policy to further that mission.

I filed Senate Bill (SB) 298 earlier this session. SB 298 would have required certain health plans to provide coverage for doula services before, during and after childbirth. Currently, access to doulas requires mothers to pay out of pocket for a service predominantly used by Black mothers. The bill also would have required the office of the secretary to establish and maintain a doula registry. Sadly, the bill was never brought for a vote.

Next, I co-authored Senate Bill (SB) 10. This bill would create a maternal mortality review board. This board would be responsible for collecting data on women who die during or after child birth. It is important that we do everything in our power to address the issue of maternal mortality. We must work to eliminate preventable deaths and guarantee our state is giving Black mothers the medical care they need.

That is why I was thrilled to see the governor move to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers from two months to one full year. This change will significantly improve maternal health outcomes and will save lives, especially in the communities I serve. In Indiana, 86% of pregnancy-associated deaths occurred postpartum, including 37% after 6 weeks. I want to specifically highlight the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, which made this change possible.

This has been a long, arduous session, but I know that mothers, and especially Black mothers, will be better off going forward because of the work that happened this legislative session.