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Sen. Doug Jones issued a statement during a media call last week on ways to strengthen families and improve health outcomes for women and children. What follows is an abridged version of that statement from Jones.
“We have a real opportunity in the state of Alabama to have conversations about the ways that we can strengthen families and improve health outcomes for women and children. Punishing women or doctors is not the way to do that. Instead, we should be focused on things like addressing the abysmal rates of maternal and infant mortality in Alabama.
Folks, this is absolutely a crisis that everyone should be paying attention to. In 2017, Alabama had the second-highest maternal death rate in the United States. Alabama also has the second-highest rate of infant mortality in the country. And for black women, the numbers are even worse: black women in Alabama are five times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women. Black babies in Alabama are three times as likely to die as white babies.
The worst part is that by most estimates, three out of five maternal deaths are preventable. Think about that for a second – imagine a child losing her mother because of a complication that could easily be prevented. In fact, the most common factors that lead to women dying in pregnancy and childbirth are simple things: lack of knowledge about warning signs for serious complications or not knowing when to seek medical attention.
This crisis has been made worse by the fact since 2011, 13 hospitals have closed in our state, and seven of those hospitals have been in rural areas. Only 29 out of 67 counties in Alabama have hospitals that provide obstetric services – which means that women are having to travel further and further to get the care they need.
We absolutely need to be doing more to help improve health outcomes for women and children and to strengthen families.
You all have heard me talk about how important I think Medicaid expansion would be for our state, and this is another area where it would make dramatic improvements in health outcomes and health services. I also recently introduced the Maternal CARE Act with a number of my colleagues, which would create a grant program to improve access to health care for women during pregnancy and address some of the disparities in health outcomes for women of color. I’ve also co-sponsored the Healthy MOM Act to make it easier for women to get health care coverage when they are pregnant. Those two bills would make a huge difference in health outcomes for women in Alabama and across the country.
Strengthening families and improving health outcomes for women and children absolutely needs to be a priority for our state going forward. It is the common ground we can all agree on, and the best place for us to start a conversation about how we support women and reduce abortions.”