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Pete Buttigieg's Women's Health Plan Would Tackle Maternal Mortality Crisis

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At over 25 pages, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg's Women's Agenda hit the internet with a thud Thursday. In it, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 candidate detailed four ways he'd seek to make the United States a better place for women if elected president. And tucked alongside plans to close the gender pay gap, boost women's power and influence, and make communities safer for women was Buttigieg's women's health plan, which addressed the maternal mortality crisis happening in America.

"Only one developed country in the world has a rising maternal mortality rate: the United States," Buttigieg's Women's Agenda noted. "This is a national disgrace. Today, an American woman is 50% more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than her mother was."

Buttigieg is right. Maternal mortality rates in the United States are an absolute disgrace. Roughly 700 women are reported to die from pregnancy-related complications each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What's more, the CDC states that some 60% of those deaths are preventable.

But as Buttigieg's agenda has noted, there's a serious disparity in the numbers. "While the maternal mortality rate has increased for all women, it is three to four times higher for Black and Native American women than for white women," Buttigieg's agenda read, citing data previously released by the CDC. From 2011 to 2015, white women accounted for 13 deaths per 100,000 live births. In contrast, black women accounted for 42.8 deaths per 100,000 live births while American Indian and Alaska Native women accounted for 32.5 deaths per 100,000 live births.

In the agenda released Thursday, Buttigieg vowed to "end the maternal mortality crisis" if elected president through a six-part plan. First, the presidential hopeful promised to ensure that women receive health insurance coverage for "the full range of preventive health care and family planning services to improve pre-pregnancy and postpartum health." Second, Buttigieg vowed to support the MOMMA Act, the Maternal CARE Act, the MOMS Act, the MOMMIES Act, and the Rural MOMS Act.

"These Acts require training to address implicit bias and racism in hospitals and other health care settings, increase and support funding for state Maternal Mortality Review Commissions, expand Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum, expand evidence-based programs shown to reduce disparities in pregnancy outcomes, ... and establish pregnancy medical home demonstrations to improve continuity of care," Buttigieg's agenda read.

Buttigieg also vowed to reduce the closure of obstetric units and increase access to maternal health services in rural areas and Tribal Nations, noting that 2.4 million women were affected by the lack of hospital obstetrics services reported in more than half of rural counties. His plan also included a promise to use his Healing and Belonging in America plan to ensure that resources and support are provided to women with mental illness or substance use disorders.

Finally, Buttigieg's plan included efforts to protect the health care of women who are incarcerated through promises to ensure access to free menstrual products and update Bureau of Prison policies for post-birth contact between mother and child. Buttigieg's agenda also noted that, if elected, he plans to "enforce and enhance" pregnancy, prenatal, and postpartum care protocols in federal prisons while also funding and enforcing the First Step Act, which ended a policy of shackling pregnant women during labor among other things.

Of course, Buttigieg isn't the only candidate to have a plan for reducing maternal mortality rates, as Vox has pointed out. Sen. Elizabeth Warren detailed hers in April, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris in May, and Beto O'Rourke in October, to name only three. What's more, it's unclear what impact Buttigieg’s proposed plan might actually have on maternal mortality rates. That being said, it may help Buttigieg find favor with voters as the presidential election continues to heat up.