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March 12, 2024

Legislation to Reduce Maternal Mortality, Address Disparity of Care for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Passes Committee

DENVER, CO - The House Health & Human Services Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Representatives Lorena Garcia and Iman Jodeh to improve maternal health care in Colorado. HB24-1262 includes modifying the midwife licensure process and creating a new professional title, collecting more data on mistreatment during the perinatal period, and requiring advance notice to a patient when a facility reduces or ends maternal health care services. The bill passed by a vote of 11-0.

“Our country is in a maternal health crisis and we need to focus on expanding care options and identifying causes of maternal mortality and mistreatment to better protect the health of our Colorado families,” said Rep. Lorena Garcia, D-Unincorporated Adams County. “A report found that 89 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in Colorado were preventable, and this is especially true for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Our legislation works to increase access to maternal care, including midwives, to provide trauma-informed care, safe transitions, and other wraparound services so pregnant Coloradans can receive the care they need.”

“As a new mom, I know how important it is to have quality health care providers by your side that will advocate for the best health outcomes for you and your baby,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora. “Families should have the freedom to choose a health care provider that best fits their needs, especially for the Black and Indigenous Coloradans that are two to three times as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth. This bill will help improve Coloradans’ access to life-saving health care to keep Colorado families safe and healthy.”

Starting September 1, 2024, HB24-1262 would require any individual who practices certified professional midwifery to have a valid license. The bill would update the title of “direct-entry midwives” to “certified professional midwives” (CPMs) and change the regulation from registration to licensure. The licensure process includes passing an exam, graduating from an accredited midwifery education program, holding a CPM credential from the North American Registry of Midwives, being certified by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross to perform adult and infant CPR, or having an equivalent education that is approved by the director of the Division of Professions and Occupations. 

The bill would also:

  • Provide more direction to the Civil Rights Commission on how to collect reports of mistreatment in maternity care to help identify ways to address prenatal mistreatment and discrimination,

  • Create an advisory panel to provide recommendations on disciplinary actions against CPMs,

  • Add a midwife who is practicing in a freestanding birth center, in a rural area, or as a home birth provider to the Environmental Justice Advisory Board,

  • Require a health care facility that provides maternal health care services to provide notice at least 90 days before the reduction or end of these services,

  • Require the Colorado Maternal Mortality Prevention Program to study closures and availability of perinatal health care, impacts on affected populations, and provide recommendations to the General Assembly, and

  • Add pregnancy as a protected class for the purposes of discrimination in places of public accommodation.

The Colorado Maternal Mortality Review Committee made recommendations to combat the maternal mortality crisis, including increasing access to varied health care like midwifery, addressing maternal health workforce shortages, and studying the impact of facility shortages on Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, rural, and immigrant and refugee communities.

A 2022 report found that 38 percent of Colorado counties are a maternal health care desert, meaning they don’t have perinatal health care providers or birth centers. A 2023 report found that Black Coloradans are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or within one year postpartum, while Indigenous communities are three times as likely.

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