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This bill could provide expanded maternity care for millions of women

How a simple amendment to an old bill can bring maternity care to women who have been neglected by the system.

Today, we’re tackling  the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act and its subsequent effects on women. 

1. What’s this bill about? 

H.R. 315 is the official name for the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act – an amendment to the Public Health Service Act, first passed in 1944. H.R. 315 passed unanimously in the House January 9th, 2017 (405-0) and has moved to the Senate docket for a vote. A very similar bill was brought to the House of Representatives in March of 2015 but was referred to committee and never reached a vote. Until now.

This bill changes the game for maternity care access. Click To Tweet

This sounds promising…

2. What’s it provide?

This bill calls for a collection of data about the availability of maternity care in areas where there are already shortages of healthcare professionals and the subsequent “assigning to such identified areas maternity care health professionals who…would otherwise be eligible for such assistance, [and] distribute maternity care health professionals within health professional shortage areas using the maternity care health professional target areas identified.”

This is an amendment to the Public Health Service Act, a bill which includes a section that calls for dispersion of healthcare services in areas where there is little to no existing access. These services previously included dental, primary care, and mental health, but not maternity care. This bill changes the game. 

Yes! Easier access to professional maternity care is great! 

3. This is a huge deal for millions of women across the country. 

Offering access to maternity care for those with little to no access to it, including prenatal, birth and labor, and postpartum care. This is a huge deal for millions of women. A quick look at some statistics from 2015 reveals that for every 10,000 women in need of maternity care, there are only 4 health care providers available. And, the number of medical students pursuing OB/GYN careers has remained stagnant, while needs are increasing across the country. That only means that shortages are going to become more severe in the coming years.

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The way things currently stand means that every year, thousands of women go unseen by maternity care health professionals. This bill would make sure that maternity care is included in the research of neighborhoods and communities across the country, something that has heretofore been neglected. Women who have foregone regular recommended medical visits while pregnant and likely delivered without a doctor presence or without any postpartum care, now have a greater likelihood of being seen and being cared for as they go through the experience of birth.

Applause! About time! In fact — long overdue.

4. Providing access for expectant mothers is a huge help.

This simple amendment offers the full scope of care for women who would otherwise have to either travel for maternity care or forego it altogether. It will affect those living in neglected or impoverished areas of the country. In an era when affordable and accessible women’s healthcare is at risk with Congress’s threat to de-fund Planned Parenthood, providing access for expectant mothers can be a big help. There’s an estimated one million babies born to mothers who did not receive the recommended care. The risk of death is five times higher for these babies and the risk of being underweight is three times as high than for those who were offered prenatal care. It is so preventable, it’s long overdue that this should be included in what the Public Health Service Act includes in dispersing care to underserved communities.

This definitely needs to get pushed through the Senate. 

5. What you can do to help this pass. 

Let’s make sure it gets a similarly strong pass through the Senate as it did in the House. You can call your Senators and ask them to vote YES on HR 315. Find their contact information here!

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Perry Hodgkins Jones

Perry Hodgkins Jones

Editorial Fellow Perry Hodgkins Jones is a published writer, environmental advocate, and non-profit worker with a Master's in Theology and the Environment from Sewanee.

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