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Delaware House Democrats

“Access in Crisis”

January 29, 2024

Several House members join panel discussion at event marking Maternal Health Awareness

Several members of the House Democratic Majority participated in panel discussions at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) 2024’s Maternal Health Awareness Day event in Dover. This year’s theme was “Access in Crisis.”

House members in attendance included House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown, House Majority Whip Kerri Evelyn Harris, and Representatives Cyndie Romer, Debra Heffernan, and Stell Parker Selby. They joined members of the state Senate in panel discussions concerning maternal health issues and issues that shed light on the ongoing challenges faced by those seeking and providing maternal and reproductive health care.

“America has the highest rate of maternal mortality among high-income countries,” said House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown. “What’s worse is that maternal mortality rates for Black and Brown mothers are 2-3 times higher than rates for white Americans. My colleagues and I are continuing to implement policies that will have a huge impact on Delaware families across the state by breaking down barriers to vital healthcare
treatment and removing other obstacles that mothers and families have faced.”

Rep. Minor-Brown explained that while many states have been enacting laws that limit or restrict a woman’s access to maternal health care, the Delaware legislature has been actively working to protect women’s reproductive health.

“We can’t ignore the impact of the Dobbs decision,” Rep. Minor-Brown said. “While we’ve pushed for policies to protect reproductive health care, the same cannot be said for other states.”

Rep. Minor-Brown explained that the pro-maternal policies championed include:

  • House Bill 234: requiring the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to
    expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months from the end of pregnancy.
  • House Bill 344: providing licensed healthcare professionals and staff with
    strategies for reducing the impact of their biases (to reduce disparate
    outcomes enhance fairness).
  • House Bill  80: Requires doula services to be covered by Medicaid in Delaware by January 2024.

“We’re also heading toward an OB/GYN drought in Delaware and we need to move quickly to prevent this from happening,” added Rep. Minor-Brown. “Our providers are burned out and tired and can’t risk the liability that comes along with Delawareans not having access to vital reproductive health care early on.”

“We’re already seen medical students shying away from this field (maternal and reproductive service), with many providers leaving states that have imposed restrictive laws,” said Rep. Cyndie Romer. “It’s no secret that reproductive care is under attack, but that shouldn’t prevent us from doing what’s right here in the First State to protect our reproductive health care workers and make it clear that it’s safe to practice in Delaware.”

Rep. Romer points the state’s efforts to protect abortion access with 2022’s House Bill 455, legislation authored by House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown. The bill enhances protections for abortion providers and patients seeking care.

“HB 455 was a good start,” Rep. Romer added. “But we must continue working with providers and address their concerns, especially now as we’re continuing to feel the implications of SCOTUS overturning Roe V. Wade.”

“The Dobbs decision propelled us into this modern-day maternal health crisis,” said House Majority Whip Kerri Evelyn Harris. “We’re seeing the results of what happens when people are denied the right to access the type of care they need. However, we needn’t stand idle or just accept this because we all have a role to play. And, as a legislator, I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can work to further protect reproductive and maternal health rights.”

For Sussex County Rep. Stell Parker Selby who grew up during the Civil Rights Era, setbacks like last year’s SCOTUS action shouldn’t be a deterrent to moving forward with enhancing protections for providers and providing access for patients.

“There’s always going to be obstacles, I’ve learned that in life, but it’s important to preserve and keep going for the next generations,” Rep. Parker Selby said. “As legislators, its important for us to continue advocating for and passing laws that protect the ability to provide care to patients. We’ve also got to ensure that we’re addressing patient access concerns too, not just with maternal health, but across the medical field because there are some areas in Sussex County that are almost like a health care desert.”

“We just had the 50th anniversary of Roe, a ruling that had worked to ensure a woman’s right to make their own reproductive health care choices,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan. “Last year that right was removed, bringing us to where we are. I’m confident that my colleagues and I will continue to be proactive and work to ensure that Delawareans have the sort of health care they deserve. Delaware was proactive in 2017 to codify Roe v. Wade in Delaware with legislation led by Sen. Townsend in the Senate and by me in the House. We need to support women and expand access to health care to improve health outcomes for all women, including in reproductive and maternal health.”

The first Maternal Health Awareness Day celebration occurred in 2017 and was held in New Jersey, growing to a national level in 2021.

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