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Rep. John Lewis Questions Experts on Maternal Mortality Crisis

May 16, 2019
Press Release

Today, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) heard testimony from the most diverse panel in Ways and Means history on “Overcoming Racial Disparities and Social Determinants in the Maternal Mortality Crisis.” 

For the first time in the history of the committee, the panel included five black women, Asian, and Hispanic expert witnesses.  Two were members of Congress – Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Rep. Jaime Beutler (R-WA). 

The United States has the worst rate of maternal death in the “developed world,” and Georgia ranks dead last among all 50 states. 

The hearing featured an Atlantan, President-Elect of the American Medical Association, Dr. Patrice Harris, as well as U.S. Olympic track star Allyson Felix

Rep. Lewis made these comments during the hearing.  Use this link to see the hearing live.  The hearing is in recess for votes and will reconvene at 1 PM today.

 

CONGRESSMAN LEWIS:
Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank you for holding this hearing.

This panel, in my estimation, makes up one of the most diverse panels of witnesses since I’ve been a member of this Committee, and I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman. 

I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to share your stories and your expertise with us.

Mr. Chairman, in my home state of Georgia, we face a crisis, and I would like to enter into the record a news article about why Georgia ranks last in the nation on this matter.

CHAIRMAN NEAL:
So ordered.

CONGRESSMAN LEWIS:

I would also like to express my gratitude to Mrs. Phiffer Reed from Atlanta, Georgia.  She shared her story with me about the reality of post-partum depression and the challenges of trying to access health services as a woman of color. 

Dr. Harris, thank you for being here.  I am so glad we have a doctor from Atlanta, Georgia.  We need more like you. 

You are well aware of the crisis in Georgia.  It is worse in our state than any other.  We’re far behind.  We need to do better; we need to catch up. 

What should the Congress do to encourage better maternal care for women of color?  What should we do?

DR. PATRICE A. HARRIS, President-Elect, American Medical Association:

Thank you for your words.  Congressman Lewis, I think that there are many things that Congress can do. 

I would say, at a basic level, it’s funding and infrastructure.  Congressman Brady talked about a national road map.  Congress at the national level can develop funding, again, for an infrastructure from which local and community-based solutions can arise.  Earlier, we talked about supporting the MOMMA’s Act.  Several panelists have mentioned the importance of maternal mortality review committees.  In order to develop solutions, we need to first identify the problems.  We can’t always identify those problems without the accurate data, so funding to make sure that these review committees are adequately operationalized will be key. 

The other issue, and you mentioned depression:  As a psychiatrist, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that we see women suffering increased levels of post-partum depression and we see that at even higher rates in African-American women.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure for mental health and for substance use disorders has been woefully underfunded for several years.  Funding of basic infrastructure for treatment, for mental illnesses, for post-partum depression will be key as well. 

Those are just a few suggestions.

CONGRESSMAN LEWIS:
Ms. Felix, thank you for your courage.  Thank you for being here today.  I know you’re a great athlete, you run very fast.  Why would you want to come and tell your story and be so personal?  Why?

ALLYSON FELIX, U.S. Track and Field Olympic Gold Medalist:

Thank you so much.  It was very important to me to be here.  For a living, I get to do what I’m passionate about, and that brings me much joy.  But to me, there is no more important issue than what we’re talking about today. 

I consider having my daughter my greatest achievement, and it was such an eye-opening experience what I went through.  I was not aware.  I was completely not educated on this topic.  I wasn’t happy to go through what I went through, but I am thankful that I was able to come out and learn so much, because now I feel like with the platform that I do have, I can use my voice to try to have an impact.  I am extremely happy to be here and to share my story today.

CONGRESSMAN LEWIS:

Thank you for being here.  I yield back, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN NEAL:
Thank you, Mr. Lewis.

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