Baker signs maternal health panel bill

A new state commission, established under a law Gov. Baker signed on Jan. 13, will be tasked with seeking out steps to address racial inequities in maternal health.

The panel will explore ways to reduce or eliminate inequities in maternal mortality or “severe maternal morbidity” and investigate barriers to accessing prenatal and postpartum care, the availability of doulas and birthing centers, and the impacts of “historical and current structural, institutional and individual forms of racism.”

In a statement issued last week after the bill (H 4818) cleared the Legislature, Sen. Becca Rausch said Black people giving birth in Massachusetts are twice as likely as their white counterparts to die due to complications during and after childbirth, and Rep. Liz Miranda — who represents parts of Dorchester and Roxbury—said the bill “allows us to approach the maternal mortality crisis as both a racial justice and public health issue by seeking to understand both the socioeconomic determinants of health while also tackling the issue of racism head-on.”

The 27-member commission will have until March 2022 to file a report, recommendations, and any draft legislation.