Gov. Phil Murphy chose University Hospital in Newark to sign a package of bills aimed at reducing New Jersey’s maternal mortality rate.
The striking thing about the issue is the racial disparity. African-American women are four or five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.
“We don’t have the same outcomes unfortunately. Our families and other families, these are opportunities to kind of fix and rectify some of those things,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
One of the bills requires Medicaid to cover the services of a doula. Another seeks to reduce the number of cesarean sections by blocking insurance coverage if a procedure is scheduled before the woman is at full term, for example, to suit a doctor’s schedule.
“This particular bill supports Medicaid covering doulas, which are these amazing, beautiful birth workers who literally devote themselves to our women to change their birthing outcomes,” said Jaye Wilson, founder and CEO of the organization Melinated Moms.
First lady Tammy Murphy has made maternal health a priority.
“Black women in New Jersey are five times greater than white women to die from maternal birth complications. Black babies are three times more likely than white babies to never see their first birthday. This is the widest racial disparity in the entire nation and it is wholly unacceptable,” she said.
“The need for action could not be clearer. In a state that is renowned for its leadership in healthcare, in a state that is among the very wealthiest in our nation, these disparities stand in stark contrast to our core values,” said the governor.
By coincidence, the bill signing comes one day after the Centers For Disease Controlthat said three of every five deaths from pregnancy-related complications are preventable.
“Yesterday the CDC told us about half of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. So we need to get to the task of preventing those deaths,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson.
After the bill signing, Murphy took questions on other topics. He was asked about the hostile rhetoric coming at him from South Jersey Democrats over EDA grants to the city of Camden and how he can move an agenda forward in such a climate.
“I’ve got a legislative leadership meeting tomorrow with the Senate president and the Assembly speaker. We have a lot of common interests that we’re continuing to pursue,” he said. “Secondly, these are somewhat unrelated, the audit by the comptroller of the EDA implied that 20 percent of the jobs that were promised, in that sample size, weren’t delivered. I have no other choice as the chief executive officer of this state, as the fiduciary for taxpayer dollars, to try and figure out where every last penny went. It has nothing to do with a broader agenda. That’s my responsibility, that’s my job. It’s high in my job description. And thirdly, when all is said and done, no administration will have done more for Camden than this administration.”
His rivals in the south have hired six high-profile lawyers to press their case.
“I don’t have any comment on the lawyers that were hired, but I have complete confidence in chairman Ronald Chen. His credentials are beyond reproach. The law firm that he’s chosen to hire, those are first-rate folks. There’s no question about their legitimacy,” said Murphy.
Others are calling it war.