Since the Democratic Caucus released their slate of Maternal and Infant Health bills on Feb 14th, I’ve been thinking about the contrasts between what bills Democrats are filing this session and what Republicans are filing.
When I looked over the long list today, in preparation for this article, I got teary eyed. Why would anyone want to stop these well-intentioned bills? Does the Republican leadership and their caucus not have any experience with maternal and infant death? Are they not aware of the obstetrical deserts in our counties, where women have to drive hours for OB care, and their babies are so much more likely to die because they can’t get consistent prenatal and postnatal care? Are they not paying attention to the statistics on suicide and substance abuse rising in young families?
And, are they not aware of our state’s rank in the nation on maternal and infant mortality? Yes, we are near the top – and that’s not a place any of us want to be.
Then, I noticed that the Republican leadership dumped a whole bunch of the Democratic bills into the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Feb 23rd. When I first saw the bills moving, I was excited; but then, I realized they were headed to the graveyard, where bills die in committee waiting to be heard. It felt cruel, not only to the legislators who work hard to put these bills together, but even more cruel to the mothers, babies, children, fathers, and families who are struggling to survive. Democrats are trying (and have been trying for at least the last 2 sessions) to propose legislation that addresses some of the basic needs for young families.
I know the Republicans talk, talk, talk about economic development and being a big draw for businesses and people to move here. Guess what, Repubs – that glaring statistic about our maternal and infant mortality isn’t a badge of honor.
The Democratic bills
Let’s look at the bills filed by the Dems, and where the bills stand.
The Democrats have proposed legislation to expand coverage by Medicaid (and often by all insurance providers) FOR:
- Midwifery services
- Doula services
- Pre- and post-natal services for up to 12 months postpartum regardless of citizenship or national origin. This includes family planning services.
- Parental depression screenings
- Lactation support and breastfeeding supplies
- Breast pump equipment and related supplies
- Pregnancy and/or postpartum care for pregnant inmates
- Long-acting, reversible contraceptives
- Medicines to cover postpartum mood disorders
- Coverage for counseling interventions for pregnant postpartum persons at risk for perinatal depression, including those who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth
The Democrats have also proposed legislation to bring awareness to and study these problems:
- Declare March to be KY Maternal & Infant Mortality & Disparities Awareness Month
- Study maternal mortality and morbidity prevention and training
- Create a Perinatal Advisory Committee
- Expand the HANDS program to include information on maternal and postpartum depression
- Extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and/or to both parents from twelve to twenty-four months post-partum
- Require all providers of OB care to provide information on maternal depression
- Require CHFS to provide information on postpartum depression and an assessment tool on their website
- Require healthcare facilities to provide information on perinatal mood disorder.
- Establish the State Child & Maternal Fatality Review Board
- Establish a Pregnancy Resource Center
Democrats have also filed legislation to help struggling families with the costs associated with childbirth and care of children after birth.
- Exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.
- Exempt postnatal items from sales tax (diapers, baby bottles, baby wipes, etc.).
- Exempt lactation support, breast pumps, and supplies from sales tax.
- Require employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid parental leave for employees who have been employed for 1 year.
- Require a special enrollment period & coverage by insurance for pregnant persons. (Reps. Sarah Stalker (D) and Kim Moser (R) are both primary sponsors!)
- Require employers to allow the use of earned sick or vacation time after the death of a child, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Allow donation of leave time by other employees in support of their colleague.
- Provide free feminine hygiene products in elementary and high schools.
- Remove restrictions on providing abortion counseling or referral services.
- Create legal abortion exemptions for rape and incest.
- Restore full reproductive healthcare services.
At this point, there is only one of these bills moving through the legislature – SB 135, which is co-sponsored by Funke-Frommeyer (Rep) and Berg (Dem). It would require CHFS to provide information on postpartum depression and an assessment tool on their website. It has passed the Senate and is now in the House.
The Moser/Stalker bill (above) has not been assigned to a committee. Perhaps with a Republican co-sponsor, it may get a chance to be heard in committee.
Other than those two, the Republicans have not offered one bill to help care for women and infants. Instead, they have introduced two more anti-abortion bills (which fortunately haven’t moved yet). They have also introduced bills to try to erase trans kids and misgender them, even if the child’s parents expressly want the teachers to use the child’s preferred pronoun. They have filed bills to allow parents to complain about any book that doesn’t fit their personal moral code, and then run teachers, principals, and school boards through hoops the books are banned.
So who in Frankfort is concerned about our children? I think we know the answer – and it isn’t Max Wise and the Republican legislature.