By Bob Katzen

A bill that would create a special 20-member commission to examine and make recommendations to reduce or eliminate racial disparities in the death of mothers before, during and after childbirth was given a favorable report by the Health Care Financing Committee.

The commission would look for problems and solutions by examining evidence-based practices, including approaches taken by other states or grass-roots organizations to reduce or eliminate racial disparities in maternal mortality or severe maternal morbidity; barriers to accessing prenatal and postpartum care, how that care is delivered and the quality of that care; and how historical and current structural, institutional and individual forms of racism, including implicit bias or discrimination, affect the incidence and prevalence of maternal mortality in communities of color.

“As a House, we recognize that addressing racism must include tackling systemic and institutional barriers to equity,” read a statement from Speaker DeLeo and Reps. Daniel Cullinane (D-Dorchester), Kay Khan (D-Newton) and Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury). “Maternal health has long been a red flag for racial and ethnic disparities within the healthcare system. Women of color die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate three times higher than white women in the United States.”

The 20-member commission would include the House and Senate chairs of the Committee on Public Health, a member of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression. Others include a midwife, an obstetrician and a gynecologist; two members from a community of color; and a person who has lost an immediate family member to maternal mortality.

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