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2023 Maternal and Infant Health Legislative Agenda

pregnant black woman holding daughter

Background

Voices empowers children, youth, and families disproportionately impacted by inequitable outcomes as agents in the creation of policy solutions to ignite change in their communities. Through our direct engagement with youth advocates and hearing from the professionals serving families, Voices embraces a variety of perspectives to create trauma-informed and healing centered spaces for advocates to share their stories and reconcile trauma through systems change.

For far too long, policies in our country and Commonwealth have perpetuated racism interpersonally, institutionally, and systemically, known as structural racism. The impact of historical racism and trauma show up in disparities in access and outcomes, including income and wealth, educational opportunities, and health. Our young people today still face the impact of historical racism within the systems they encounter and the communities they live. To ensure all children in Virginia have the opportunity to thrive despite race, geography or income, we must focus on the root causes that have produced inequitable distribution of resources, eliminate barriers to fair and equal participation and dismantle social and institutional biases.


Maternal and Infant Health

The opportunity to thrive begins at birth through improved pregnancy outcomes and infant and maternal health care.

Virginia has made significant progress in supporting policies to address disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes by improving access to health insurance for more pregnant people and creating a Medicaid funded doula benefit. However, given the significant disparities that still exist in maternal and infant health for Black mothers and their children, the work is not complete. According to Virginia’s Maternal Mortality Review Team, the majority (51%) of pregnancy-related deaths in Virginia result from provider-related factors — not underlying health conditions. Voices’ agenda focuses on health providers and promoting more accessible, community-based access.

Maternal and Infant Health Priorities

  1. Establish implicit bias training criterion for perinatal health care professionals. In 2021 alone, six state medical boards added such a requirement, bringing the national total to 13. More than 200 governmental bodies and private institutions, including Virginia, have declared racism a public health crisis.
  2. Create a workgroup to develop a plan to expand the perinatal health hub model at the community levels in more neighborhoods across the state. Expanding this model will address maternal health care deserts, build trust between providers and communities and help pregnant individuals find and access prenatal and postpartum care.
  3. Approve legislation that will authorize licensed midwives to carry and administer medications. Certified Professional Midwives are not permitted to give maternity patients typical drugs administered during labor to ensure safe deliveries. According to the CDC, the top two causes of preventable pregnancy-related deaths are hemorrhaging and preeclampsia, which can be mitigated by prescription medication.

Voices is a member of Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy’s PUSH Coalition.

For more information, contact Emily Moore.