Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Vanessa Summers

L-R: Rep. Vanessa Summers, Sen. Todd Young, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, Rep. Ann Vermilion and state Sen. Jean Breaux gathered at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition to discuss plans to combat high maternal and infant mortality rates in the state. (Photo/Breanna Cooper)

Sen. Todd Young and state Rep. Vanessa Summers recently announced plans to work together to address high maternal and infant mortality rates in Indiana.

At a press conference earlier in February at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition headquarters, the two lawmakers, along with state Rep. Jean Breaux, brainstormed ways to lower the number of women who die as a result of childbirth in the state. Indiana has the seventh highest rate of maternal mortality in the nation, with 41.4 white women out of 100,000 and 53.4 Black women out of 100,000 dying every year.

While no definitive plans came from the meeting, Summers urged Young to work with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who are collaborating on a “Healthy MOMMIES Act,” which is aimed at decreasing the rate of maternal mortality among Black mothers.

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Further, Summers and health care professionals called for the extension of Medicaid coverage for prenatal and postpartum care, as well as the implementation of doulas, who help care for women during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. 

“I’m looking forward to continuing to address this issue,” Young said. “Indiana should not be in the top 10 [in the country for rates of maternal mortality,] everyone agrees on that.”

Summers noted, however, that hospitals and health care providers have to work to address systemic racism in order to make a difference. Black women are often less likely to be believed by doctors when they complain of pain or other symptoms, leading to higher rates of death and complications from childbirth.

“We need to have cultural competency,” said Summers, who is Black. “We need to have conversations about how doctors get the idea that I can take more pain, that I’m tougher. We have to have those conversations with hospitals.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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