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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

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.


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"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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