State Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) and State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) introduced the Birth Equity Act on Tuesday, a package of legislation designed “to disrupt inequities in maternal and child health by supporting Black, Brown, and Indigenous mothers and infants.”
Stubbs and Johnson held a press conference in the Wisconsin State Capitol Assembly Parlor and were joined by Katrina Morrison, Health Equity Director for the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Tamara Thompson of Maroon Calabash, and Lisa Peyton-Caire, president & CEO of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness.
“It is beyond time that we make these infant mortality disparities non-existent. There is no reason that a baby’s lifespan should be decreased at the time they are born simply because of their zip code, the color of their skin, or their economic status. That has to stop,” Sen. Johnson said at the press conference. “This legislation, for so many African-American babies and their mothers, is a matter of life and death.”
State Rep. Stubbs told Madison365 that the Birth Equity Act, or BEA, was needed because Black mothers are “five times more likely to die from childbirth or pregnancy, and Black infants are three times more likely to die before they reach the age of one.”
“These numbers show that systemic inequity has made Wisconsin one of the worst states in the nation for Black mothers and Black children. It is important to say that we cannot stand idle as our families continue to suffer,” Stubbs said. “As a mom myself, as a pastor, as an activist, and as an elected official, these bills are personal to me.”
The Birth Equity Act would expand insurance coverage, remove financial burdens, and increase access to full-spectrum health care.
“This will tangibly affect the lives of countless women in Wisconsin,” Stubbs says. “We will give families of color, and I underline that, the opportunity to thrive in our great state.
“These actionable policies are a meaningful step forward for Wisconsin and our children, our mothers and our families deserve health coverage, health care and health access,” she continued. “By taking a bold step forward, we are not only dismantling systems of oppression, but we’re building systems of equity. When Black mothers do better, we all do better.”
The six bills that were introduced came from hundreds of recommendations from BIPOC health leaders across the state, Stubbs added.
“My hope is that my colleagues on each side of the aisle sign onto these bills. I’m requesting that these bills be given a hearing in both houses,” Stubbs said. “I’m asking people to reach out to their legislators to have a hearing on these bills. They are so important.
“This is a ground-breaking piece of legislation. This package of bills is designed to disrupt inequity in maternal and child health by supporting Black, Brown, and Indigenous mothers and infants,” Stubbs added. “It’s not often that you can have two African-American mothers (Stubbs and Johnson) who can stand up in our state Capitol and talk about the importance of this work that needs to be done.”