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Rep. Lauren Underwood says there's a "pathway" for maternal health bills to pass Congress

Underwood says "pathway" possible on maternal health bills
Rep. Lauren Underwood says there's a "pathway" for maternal health bills to pass Congress 07:01

Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Democrat from Illinois, has for years tried to pass a package of legislation, called the Momnibus Act, to address surging maternal deaths across the country. Although portions of the bill have already been signed into law, much of it remains under negotiation. 

But, speaking optimistically about the future of the bill on "Face the Nation" Sunday, Underwood said she sees "a pathway" to bipartisan agreement on the Momnibus Act and believes it can become law by the end of 2023.

"The American people are united behind this as a priority, a shared value, and we've had broad bipartisan support from the Congress to solve this problem," Underwood told "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan. The congresswoman noted that there are "several bills within the package that are bipartisan at this time," citing one to protect veteran mothers that would follow another Momnibus bill, signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, to address maternal deaths among women who served in the U.S. military.

Other pieces of the Momnibus Act that have not yet passed both chambers of Congress include one to protect maternal mental health and support substance use disorders, and another "to make sure the technologies tools that are available on the market are available to all moms across the country," Underwood said on Sunday.

The Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the Momnibus Act in 2020 to "make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition" and to "extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods," according to the bill's summary

Rep. Lauren Underwood on "Face the Nation" on May 14, 2023. CBS News

Underwood said the legislative package "absolutely" has Republican support, pointing to the caucus' significant bipartisan membership and lawmakers' success in passing "80% of the Momnibus" in the House during the last congressional session.

"So we have a pathway to getting this piece of legislation signed into law this year, and we are working hard with our colleagues across the aisle in the House of the Senate to do so," she said.

Maternal mortality rates in the United States hit a six-decade high during the COVID-19 pandemic, with federal health data revealing a disproportionate number of deaths among Black, Hispanic and indigenous women. The U.S. leads the industrialized world in maternal deaths, and has seen an 89% increase since 2018 among mothers in all racial and ethnic groups, Underwood said on "Face the Nation." She said that while the pandemic played a role in the spike, "80% of these deaths are preventable." 

The congresswoman also emphasized that even as significant disparities exist for women of color, American women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are impacted by this crisis. 

"We certainly know that Black moms are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications, we know that Hispanic moms saw the largest increase year over year in the most recent CDC data, and we know that Native American moms have significant disparities as well," Underwood said. 

"But I want to be clear that this is a problem that touches every mom and all of our families in this country," she continued. "It doesn't matter if it's an urban or rural community, it doesn't matter if you live on the East Coast or the West Coast, or in the South. This is something that touches all of our lives and so we need to make sure that we're passing these solutions that solve the problems that we're facing in our health care system."

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