LANSING, Mich. (April 10, 2024)—Today, Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and colleagues Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp.), and Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) introduced a bill package to improve equity and accountability for those providing maternal healthcare services in Michigan. The “MI Momnibus” legislation, Senate Bills 818827, is a multi-faceted approach to build on the existing community-driven programs, care solutions, improvements in prenatal care and maternal healthcare that amplifies the voices of Black birthing people, mothers, women, families, and stakeholders.

Legislation Introduced: 

  • SR 107: A resolution to recognize April 11-18, 2024, as Black Maternal Health Week in Michigan  

  • SB 818 (GEISS): Requires the Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to include studies and reports on biased or unjust perinatal care, including but not limited to instances of obstetric violence or racism on their website. The bill also codifies the use and duties of the Maternal Mortality Review Team.  

  • SB 819 (GEISS): Requires the Dept. of Civil Rights to receive reports utilizing the patient-reported experience measure scale to identify instances of obstetric violence or racism.  

  • SB 820 (CAVANAGH): Requires hospitals to provide the Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs information that they have a policy in place to support patient protection.  

  • SB 821(CAVANAGH): Upon request from DHHS, the Dept. of Insurance and Financial Services will collect information on malpractice insurers’ policies related to perinatal care.  

  • SB 822 (ANTHONY): Ensures pregnancy status does not affect the right for a designated patient advocate to make life-sustaining treatment decisions  

  • SB 823 (CHANG): Amends the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make clear that “sex” includes but is not limited to pregnancy or lactation status.  

  • SB 824 (SANTANA): Establishes a non-punitive plan of safe care for an infant and parent if the infant is shown to be affected by alcohol or a controlled substance.  

  • SB 825 (ANTHONY): Adds licensed midwives to the state’s Essential Health Provider Repayment Program.  

  • SB 826 (CHANG): Creates a scholarship program for residents with low incomes working toward certification as a doula in the State of Michigan.  

  • SB 827 (SANTANA): Requires private insurers to reimburse licensed midwives for services.  

“The inequities between Black mothers and other mothers have intensified,” Sen. Erika Geiss said. “As a state legislator, Black Maternal Health advocate, and mom, I am deeply aware that we must uplift that our bodies still belong to us especially at this pivotal time when reproductive justice, rights, and freedom are under assault. We must recognize the intersections of economic justice and reproductive justice policies in order to improve Black maternal health and restore Black bodily autonomy and joy.”

“Black mothers face an uphill battle every day, often facing unique challenges brought on by systems that weren’t designed for them. Black mothers deserve high-quality, compassionate healthcare and medical support. We need to work together to ensure they have that platform to voice their concerns and needs,” said Sen. Anthony. “My legislation is a critical step in empowering Black mothers, allowing them to assert their preferences for life-sustaining treatments during pregnancy and ensuring their autonomy and dignity are respected throughout their healthcare journey. By including midwives in the state’s student loan repayment program for health professionals, we can strengthen the network of support available to mothers of color across our state while combatting workforce disparities. These bills are pivotal in addressing the long-standing racial disparities in maternal health, making a significant stride toward more equitable treatment and outcomes for Black mothers in Michigan.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black mothers in the United States die from pregnancy-related causes at three times the rate of white mothers. When looking at maternal mortality, Black women have a mortality rate of 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 26.6 deaths per 100,000 live births for white mothers. Not only do Black women have higher mortality rates, but they are more likely to suffer from reproductive health disorders, Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) like postpartum depression. These disparities in maternal and infant mortality are rooted in structural racism and cut across socioeconomic status, maternal age, and education levels.

“This package of bills is all about providing mothers with the healthcare and human decency they and their babies deserve during one of the most vulnerable yet special times in a woman’s life,” said Sen. Santana. “My legislation will guarantee mothers struggling with addiction or other forms of controlled substance use, and their infants, get the safe care they need to thrive without fear of punishment. This package will also require private insurers to reimburse licensed midwives for their services, better supporting these workers and the vital care they provide for Michigan mothers and their babies.”

These disparities do not start in hospitals when Black mothers are giving birth — they are a product of historical and current discrimination, racism, and limited reproductive rights and justice. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOB), Black women are more likely than white women to report using a contraceptive method with lower efficacy or not having access to contraceptives at all. In addition to contraceptives, Black women lack other necessary reproductive healthcare such as counseling, abortion access, STI screenings, and reproductive screenings.

“Serving in the Michigan State Senate and as Chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus, I am honored to be a part of this critical package aimed at addressing ongoing maternal health disparities, inequities and adverse outcomes that disproportionally impact Black and Brown families,” said Sen. Cavanagh. “With Latina mothers facing one of the highest maternal mortality rates, I worry about the risks I face as a young woman of color in my own family planning. The Michigan Senate is taking important steps to support patient protection and ensure women of color receive adequate care during their parenting journey, pre- and post-birth, to raise healthy families right here in Michigan.”

Black women face unfair healthcare challenges compared to white women, leading to higher risks and even life-threatening complications. As mortality rates climb and reproductive freedoms come under fire, it’s crucial to back local initiatives that enhance prenatal and maternal care, support breastfeeding and nutrition and safeguard abortion access.

“Black Maternal Health Week shines a light on the unacceptable inequities facing Black mothers in our healthcare system; this week must ignite the changes needed in our laws. I am proud to work alongside my Senate colleagues on this bill package to uplift and protect Black mothers, ensuring they are able to access the healthcare they need, when they need it,” said Sen. Chang. “My legislation strengthens discrimination protections for expectant and new mothers. Also, by reducing financial barriers to doula training, we can make our maternal healthcare system more equitable and help more Michiganders to take on this important, trusted role in the birthing process regardless of their economic situation.”

“We are thrilled to announce the introduction of the Michigan Momnibus legislation in the Senate today, a significant milestone in our pursuit of birth justice. This comprehensive bill package is the culmination of relentless efforts by the State of Birth Justice Coalition to amplify community voices and directly embed their experiences and needs into our legislative framework,” said Cassy Jones-McBryde, Policy Lead for the MI State of Birth Justice Coalition. “Through the Momnibus, we are taking a decisive step towards eradicating racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. We are committed to ensuring that every birthing person and child in Michigan has the healthiest start in life, with equity at the forefront of our mission.”

“This package will increase access to midwifery care and honor and affirm the human rights and dignity of all birthing families across Michigan in every setting. The Michigan Momnibus centers on equity and love, and all families deserve that,” said Licensed Midwife Nicole White, Director of MI State of Birth Justice and Co-Founder of Birth Detroit.

“It’s unacceptable that Black women are three times more likely than white women to die during childbirth, reproductive rights are under attack, and the United States is the only high-income nation with no comprehensive paid family and medical leave,” Sen. Geiss continued. “Black women deserve the fundamental human right of reproductive justice now. While we highlight these issues and possible policy solutions during Black Maternal Health Week, I will continue working to uplift the rights, justice, and freedom for Black mothers all year. Healthcare is a human right.”

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Housing & Human Services Committee.

In addition to the bill package, Sen. Geiss introduced Senate Resolution 107 today to commemorate April 11-17, 2024, as Black Maternal Health Week. This week, now in its seventh year, was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) in 2018, and the Michigan Legislature has been recognizing it since its inception. This year’s theme is “Our Bodies STILL Belong to Us: Reproductive Justice NOW!” and is dedicated to awareness, activism, and amplifying the voices of Black Mamas to express the concerns and necessary improvements regarding Black maternal health and reproductive justice.

The Senate adopted the resolution unanimously.