By Lauren Blachowiak, Government Affairs Manager, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP)
Long-time maternal and child health (MCH) champions Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) and Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3) are set to leave Congress at the end of this year. As Members of Congress for 30 years and 12 years, respectively, each has made a significant impact on the lives of women, children, and families across the country. Perhaps the pair’s leading accomplishment has been founding the bipartisan Maternity Care Caucus. As co-chairs of the Caucus, the Congresswomen have raised awareness of the issues plaguing our nation’s maternity care system and led key legislative victories toward improving MCH outcomes.
Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler founded the bipartisan Maternity Care Caucus in the House of Representatives in December 2015. Despite a history of data detailing poor maternal and infant health outcomes in the United States, little legislative attention had been given to the issue in previous Congresses. The initial press release announcing the establishment of the Caucus from Representative Herrera Beutler’s office stated that “the goal of the Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care is to raise awareness about important and timely maternity-care-related issues and highlight challenges facing America’s maternity care system.” The Caucus attracted a slate of members from both sides of the political aisle, and the focus was on policy efforts that were both cost-conscious and effective.
Over the past seven years, Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Herrera Beutler have co-led the Maternity Care Caucus through a series of bipartisan initiatives through both the appropriations and authorizing legislation processes. They have championed the Title V MCH Block Grant in the annual appropriations process, resulting in sustained increases to the block grant totaling over $100 million from fiscal years 2015 to 2022. Other federal programs that have benefited from consistent increases in appropriations include the Healthy Start Program, the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC’s Newborn Screening Quality Assurance program, CDC’s Safe Motherhood Programs, and others. Enacted legislation sponsored by both of the Maternity Care Caucus co-chairs includes the pivotal Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which authorized the CDC to support state and tribal maternal mortality review committees. The Congresswomen have had an additional 15 pieces of legislation related to maternal health research, protections for pregnant and breastfeeding workers, infant health, access to quality care, and maternal mental health that were either enacted or passed the House of Representatives over the past seven years.
Representative Roybal-Allard and Representative Herrera Beutler, together with the members of the Maternity Care Caucus, ushered in an era of unprecedented attention to the maternal health crisis. Although both Congresswomen will be leaving at the end of this Congress, the Maternity Care Caucus will continue under new leadership when the 118th Congress opens in January 2023. AMCHP looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the Maternity Care Caucus to address the maternal mortality and morbidity crisis and to promote healthy outcomes for all women, infants, and children.