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Harris, Gillibrand offer plans to bolster maternal care

By JUANA SUMMERS and WILL WEISSERTMay 22, 2019
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FILE - In this Wednesday, May 1, 2019, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Harris is offering a new bill to address racial disparities in maternal health care, one of several plans by 2020 presidential candidates on the issue. The California Democrat’s bill would create some $150 million in grant programs to medical schools and states to fight implicit racial bias in medical care for women. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
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FILE - In this Wednesday, May 1, 2019, file photo, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Harris is offering a new bill to address racial disparities in maternal health care, one of several plans by 2020 presidential candidates on the issue. The California Democrat’s bill would create some $150 million in grant programs to medical schools and states to fight implicit racial bias in medical care for women. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Democratic women running for president unveiled plans Wednesday to improve maternal health care, with Sen. Kamala Harris reintroducing a bill aimed at addressing racial disparities in childbirth care and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand promising to make adoptions and high-tech fertility treatments more accessible to those who want children.

Harris’ bill, first introduced in 2018, would create a $25 million program to fight racial bias in maternal care. It would direct grants to medical schools, nursing schools and other training programs to improve care for black women, who are three to four times more likely than white women to die in childbirth .

Her revived proposal also would allocate an additional $125 million toward identifying high-risk pregnancies and, according to her Senate office, provide mothers with the “culturally competent care and resources they need.”

“Black mothers across the country are facing a health crisis that is driven in part by implicit bias in our health care system,” Harris, of California, said in a statement. “We must take action to address this issue, and we must do it with the sense of urgency it deserves.”

Harris and Gillibrand, of New York, are among a number of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination focused on maternal mortality rates. The issue was the first that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was questioned on at a recent candidate forum in Houston focused on issues key to women of color, and she recently penned an op-ed for Essence magazine on the topic.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker earlier this year teamed up with Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and introduced legislation aimed at reducing the country’s maternal mortality rate, particularly among black women.

Gillibrand announced a plan for a Family Bill of Rights , which she vowed to implement promptly if elected president. It seeks to improve access to obstetrician-gynecologists in rural areas, while making adoptions or in vitro fertilization more affordable for everyone wanting children, regardless of income, religion or sexual orientation.

Her plan would provide government-sponsored “baby bundles” for new parents, with diapers, onesies, a small mattress and other items designed to make newborn nurseries healthier. It further includes beefed-up paid family leave allowing parents to care for their children into infancy, universal prekindergarten programs and expanded child care tax credits.

“The Family Bill of Rights will make all families stronger — regardless of who you are or what your zip code is — with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Gillibrand said she had a “several ideas” to pay for the proposed initiatives, including a 0.1% tax on financial transactions like stock purchases, which she says would generate $777 billion over 10 years.

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Associated Press Writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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