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DELAWARE – Monday marked a big win for moms and their babies across the First State. Several pieces of legislation designed to protect them were signed into law. “As the nation grapples with the onslaught of women’s reproductive rights, Delaware, through its legislative efforts, is signing into law significant statues, collectively enshrined in the Delaware 2022 Momnibus package,” said Representative Melissa Minor-Brown.

The “Momnibus” package includes six bills: House Bill 234, House Bill 340, House Bill 342, House Bill 345, House Substitute 2 for House Bill 344, and House Bill 343. The bills come as lawmakers say the First State is dealing with troubling statistics: Delaware is ranked 28th in the nation for infant mortality, with 12.5 infants per 1,000 live births. For Black Delawareans, the infant mortality rate is three times higher. Black women also represent 38% of maternal deaths.

House Bills 234, 342, and 345

House Bill 234 expands Medicaid coverage from six weeks postpartum to one year following the birth of a baby. “This bill will allow for postpartum women to have access to ongoing prenatal and postpartum care, access to medication, mental health supports and resources,” said Rep. Minor-Brown.

House Bill 342 provides protections for incarcerated pregnant women by expanding shackling restrictions from the second and third trimester to 13 weeks postpartum. House Bill 345 offers incarcerated pregnant women access to doula and midwifery care.

“The Department of Corrections will also be creating a doula and midwifery program within their facilities,” said Rep. Minor-Brown. “This is a game changer. This is going to provide women a viable skill that will facilitate their successful reentry back into the community.”

House Bills 340, 344, and 343

House Bill 340 renames and expands the capacity of the state’s Maternal and Child Death Review Commission. “The membership will become more diverse, including a midwife, one maternal and one child advocate from our statewide non-profit organizations, and also include representation on the panel of Black, indigenous, and other persons of color,” said Rep. Minor-Brown.

House Bill 344 supports implicit bias and competency training for Delaware’s health care workers. This is not specific to maternal health. “The only way we’re going to address it is to address it head on, and to be intentional about addressing it, so that we can all recognize that [bias] exists, that it may exist within us, and we can take accountability and ownership for how we show up, and the type of care that we deliver to our patients,” said Rep. Minor-Brown.

Finally, House Bill 343 requires Medicaid to provide coverage plans for doula services. “We’ve seen the studies, and we’ve seen the data. The studies show that the use of a doula during pregnancy leads to better maternal health outcomes,” said Rep. Minor-Brown.

A Long Time Coming

Lawmakers say the package of bills has been sorely needed for years. “It’s so magnificent that we’re here, because it means that that conversations, particularly Black women, have been crying about and fighting for for so long have been heard, and have been listened to,” said Senator Marie Pinkney.

Secretary of Delaware Health and Human Services Molly Magarik applauded the signing of the bills, as well. “If we cannot guarantee and support, not just the infants, but their parents during this critical time, what are we doing?” she said. “We cannot forget the moms. We have to focus on maternal mortality.”

For Rep. Minor-Brown, who spearheaded much of the work on the legislation, it’s personal. “This was not easy for me, as a Black woman, as a nurse, but most importantly as a mom who has faced preventable complications in both of my pregnancies,” she said. “Although I can say today that I have overcome, thoughts of those experiences continue to resurface. The trauma continued to present itself as we drafted this legislation.”

A Brighter Future For Moms And Babies

Rep. Minor-Brown says she took the pain that she and many other moms, particularly those who are Black, Brown and Indigenous, have faced and is now using it to pave the way to a brighter future for all Delawareans. “We talk about second chances. But, so many of our children have never even gotten a first chance. We have to do better. These bills are the beginning of a first chance.”

Categories: Delaware, Health, Local News, Local Politics

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