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Senators Hassan, Collins, Britt, Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Access to Maternal Health Care

Senator Hassan Announced the Introduction at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, NH

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Katie Britt (R-AL), and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to provide support for rural health care facilities to provide urgent obstetric care.

“Regardless of where they live, expecting moms deserve access to high-quality care to protect their health and the health of their babies – during their pregnancy, during labor, and after they give birth,” said Senator Hassan. “I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will provide targeted support for rural health care facilities in New Hampshire and across the country through equipment, training, and other resources. I will keep working to get more rural Granite State moms the care that they need.”

"The closure of labor and delivery units in rural Maine and throughout the nation is an urgent issue that threatens the health and safety of mothers and babies," said Senator Collins. "By creating new opportunities to improve obstetric readiness in rural communities through skills training, workforce development, and telehealth partnerships, this bipartisan legislation would help reduce care gaps and better ensure that more rural Maine communities have access to the maternal care they need.”

“I’m proud to join Senator Hassan in leading this important bipartisan legislation to support moms and empower rural hospitals with the resources needed to provide quality care to women in their communities,” said Senator Britt. “Alabama families depend on local health care providers for a wide range of services and procedures, and the Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act would help ensure that more hardworking people across America can thrive, no matter their zip code.”

“No matter where new and expecting moms live, they should be able to access quality health care. But right now, we know that too many women in rural areas don’t have a nearby hospital with birthing services,” said Senator Smith. “I’ve heard from Minnesotans who have to drive hours, sometimes in dangerous conditions like Minnesota blizzards, just to get to care at a hospital. It is time we address the health disparities that prevent rural families from accessing quality care they can afford.”

The Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act would help rural hospitals and doctors prepare to handle the obstetric emergencies that come through their doors by:

  • Creating training programs to help non-specialists respond to emergencies like labor and delivery
  • Providing federal grants for rural facilities to buy better equipment to train for and handle these emergencies
  • And developing a pilot program for teleconsultation services, so that a doctor at a rural facility helping an expecting or postpartum mother facing an emergency can quickly consult with maternal health care experts

Senator Hassan announced that she is introducing this legislation during a roundtable last week at Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth, New Hampshire – which has a birthing unit and could be eligible for a grant through Senator Hassan’s bill. Eleven maternity wards have closed in New Hampshire in the last two decades, and the median driving time to a labor & delivery unit has doubled to about 40 minutes – which can jeopardize a mother’s health and the health of her baby in emergency situations.

Senator Hassan has led efforts to ensure that new and expecting mothers have access to high-quality health care. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra highlighted efforts to expand access to rural maternity care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. Last year, Senator Hassan and the New Hampshire Congressional delegation announced nearly $1 million in federal funding for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to strengthen maternal health care in the North Country. Also, last year, thanks to Senator Hassan’s bipartisan legislation to improve mental health for new mothers, the Biden Administration launched the Task Force on Maternal Mental Health. Senators Hassan and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also previously introduced the Healthy Moms and Babies Act to strengthen health care for women before, after, and during childbirth. 

A one-pager on this legislation is available here. Full text of this legislation is available here.