• Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

Health Administration

Come One, Come All To Health Administration

Dobbs decision is “devastating” U.S. maternal health, Biden administration says

Illustration of a pillow with a health plus on a rocking chair.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to end the constitutional right to abortion has been “devastating” to maternal health and widened gaps in care as the U.S. grapples with the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, Biden administration officials said Tuesday.

Driving the news: Maternal death rates in 2020 were 62% higher in states that ban or restrict abortion than in states where the procedure is still accessible, according to a report from the Commonwealth Fund released on Wednesday.

  • Women of reproductive age in restrictive states have less access to affordable health plans and less access to maternity health care providers. These states had a 32% lower ratio of OB-GYNs to births and a 59% lower ratio of certified midwives to births.

What they’re saying: “This devastating Dobbs decision underscores that we need to keep battling relentlessly to protect and advance women’s maternal health,” said White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice on Tuesday during a maternal health care event at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

  • Rice mentioned that there have been several cases of pregnant people being denied care since the decision “despite being at risk of sepsis or other life-threatening conditions.”

State of play: The Biden administration released its plan to combat the U.S.’ “maternal health crisis,” including having states extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to one year, increase health provider training around maternal health, and diversify the maternal care workforce.

  • The administration has called on Congress to approve $470 million as part of the president’s 2023 budget to advance maternal health care in the U.S.

By the numbers: Researchers from the University of Colorado found that a nationwide federal abortion ban could make the maternal death rate increase by 24%.

  • Over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, according to the CDC, which recommends that there be increased access to postpartum health coverage.
  • 26 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded their Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to one year.

What we’re watching: Some House Democrats are pushing for a package of maternal health bills, known as the Momnibus, to be included in Congress’ end-of-year spending package.

  • Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats are “incredibly hopeful” that Congress will approve funding to address maternal health, but added that if it doesn’t, “we [will] continue to see moms die.”

Go deeper:

Axios Today podcast: How the SCOTUS Dobbs decision is affecting maternal mortality

Health experts see rise in maternal mortality post-Roe

[This story first appeared in the daily Axios Vitals newsletter, designed to keep readers up to date on health care politics, policy and business.]


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