New Minnesota law seeks to reduce maternal mortality, address racial inequities

A new initiative to address racial inequities in healthcare across the state of Minnesota received a boost in funding thanks to the new Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act, which was recently passed by state lawmakers. 

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity is set to receive nearly $300,000 in new funding. The move, some hope, will bring society one step closer to closing racial inequity gaps in maternal healthcare. 

"We are the only industrialized nation that has a rise in the maternal mortality rate right now," said Dr. Rachel Hardeman, a U of M researcher. 

In Minnesota, maternal and infant health inequities are alarming. Black women in Minnesota are more than twice as likely to die during or after pregnancy than their white counterparts. Indigenous women are more than four times more likely to die during or after pregnancy than White women. 

"Right now, what we’re seeing, what maternal mortality and morbidity and infant mortality mean, is that we’re leaving families without the ability to thrive," said Hardeman. 

Hardeman’s research fueled the passage of the new Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act. 

The center will receive nearly $300,000 in new funding that will go towards creating a model curriculum for antiracism and implicit bias training in hospitals and birthing centers statewide. It’s an initiative Hardeman thinks could save lives. 

"This training is an important starting point for dismantling systemic systems and structures that have continued to create inequities in maternal and infant health across the life course," she added. 

The new law is based on research indicating that over half of maternal deaths are preventable. Racism and bias in the healthcare system create disproportionate barriers to high quality care, the research says. 

Rep. Ruth Richardson and Sen. Patrica Torres-Ray authored the bill.