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Kamala Harris introduces plan to reduce the U.S. maternal mortality rate—the highest among the world’s developed nations

December 8, 2021, 1:53 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Female doctors face a career-long wage gap, a new profile unpacks the conflicting politics of Rep. Nancy Mace, and the Biden administration is tackling one of the U.S.’s most inexcusable crises. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

– Mother of all crises. For years now, the high rate of maternal mortality in the U.S. has been one of the country’s starkest—yet least covered—crises. Women in the U.S. die during or immediately after pregnancy at a higher rate than in any other developed nation and at more than double the rate of women in France, Canada, and the U.K. A November report found that 700 women die every year from pregnancy-related causes, a total that’s doubled over the past 30 years—inexcusable for a nation as rich as the United States. Black and Indigenous women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than any other demographic. Yet only yesterday did the White House hold its first-ever Maternal Health Day of Action to call on lawmakers, corporations, and public figures to do something about the problem.

“In the United States of America, in the 21st century, being pregnant and giving birth should not carry such great risk,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, who led the event. “Women in our nation are dying—before, during and after childbirth.”

Harris touted new administration proposals to bolster women’s health care before, during, and after child birth, including urging states to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months (from the current two), providing funding for doulas and maternal mental health resources, and establishing ‘birthing-friendly’ designations at hospitals. The proposals draw from the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act that Rep. Lauren Underwood (D–Ill.) introduced early last year.

The initiatives signal progress on an issue that’s received too little attention, but they rely in part on $3 billion in funding that’s part of the Build Back Better Act, which is stalled in the Senate, meaning some provisions could get negotiated away. The proposal also underscores how the U.S.—a country that glorifies motherhood to the detriment of women—has until now done so little to meet the basic needs of mothers, especially those from marginalized communities.

“My entire lifetime we’ve seen inaction and persistent disparities, and it’s shameful,” Underwood told Bloomberg. “Now we have the opportunity to save moms’ lives.”

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Kristen Bellstrom.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Nomination opposition. Saule Omarova withdrew her nomination to serve as President Biden's comptroller of the currency after facing strong opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats. Biden condemned the "inappropriate personal attacks" against Omarova, who faced criticism for being raised and studying in the former Soviet Union. CNBC

- Physician, heal thy bank account. Just in case you had any doubt: the gender pay gap exists for doctors, too. A new study find that over the course of a 40-year career, the gap for female doctors totals at least $2 million. New York Times

- Your witness. The Journal reviews the five days Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes spent on the stand, zeroing in on the moments that may have helped—and hurt—her case. WSJ

- It won't be the last. While the world's fight against COVD-19 is far from over, Sarah Gilbert, one of the inventors of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, is already sounding the alarm about future pandemics. The next one could be worse, she says, and the time to prepare is now. Washington Post

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The 19th hires Julia B. Chan as its next editor-in-chief. Transact announced that it has named Autumn Flora CMO. Previously, Flora was VP of customer marketing at ACI Worldwide.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- More to moms. The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel, is one of a growing number of films that are trying to tap into the complicated, contradictory and not-always-pretty reality of being a mother. New York Times Magazine

- It's a kick. Want to know who the 100 "best female footballers in the world" are? You can find Nos. 100-71 here, with the rest of the list to be unveiled throughout the week: The Guardian

- Trading down? Coinbase COO Emilie Choi says the company, which charges higher trading fees than most competitors, says it will likely compress the charges "at some point"—but that, for now, people are willing to pay them. Bloomberg

- Minding Mace. The Atlantic attempts to parse the conflicting politics of freshman House Republican Nancy Mace (S.C.), one of the few in her party to openly criticize Rep. Lauren Boebert's (R-Colo.) Islamophobic attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn). The Atlantic

ON MY RADAR

A monument to the lives of Black women and girls New York Times

What was so special about Greta Garbo? The New Yorker

Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sex and the City’s frenemy feud Vox

PARTING WORDS

"I hope to continue to make our ancestors proud. Our existence, you being who you are, you doing what you do, is continuing to open doors and to be their wildest dream.

-Zendaya, in conversation with her Euphoria costar Colman Domingo

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