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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As proud Representatives of rural areas, we know why generations of Americans choose to live and raise families in America’s small towns: the camaraderie and support in our rural communities enables generations of Iowans and Washingtonians to live out the American Dream.

Unfortunately for families wanting to carry on that legacy, however, health care for new mothers and their children is becoming harder and harder to find.


In Iowa and Washington as well as many other rural areas across America rural hospitals have been forced to make the tough financial decision to shutter their obstetrics units; others have closed entirely.

One study from the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center found that almost 1 of every 10 rural counties nationwide lost obstetric services from 2004 to 2014.

For pregnant women in rural America, that means long hours in the car driving an hour or more from their homes for an ultrasound or even a regular check-up.

The lack of access to prenatal, labor and delivery, and postnatal services doesn’t just hurt pregnant women and new mothers. It also hurts our families, our communities, and our future success. And in the 21st century, it can and must be fixed.

America has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, and rural women bear an outsized risk of pregnancy-related complications or deaths. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rural women are over one-and-a-half times more likely to die in childbirth than their urban counterparts.

Perhaps most alarmingly, while other countries are making progress on the issue, rates of pregnancy-related death in the United States have more than doubled in the past three decades, according to the CDC. Most of these deaths are preventable.

We know that when rural Americans talk about being “left behind” or how politicians don’t care about them this is what they mean. It’s time for both parties in Congress to work together to reverse this trend and reinvest in rural families.

That’s why we’re leading a bipartisan push in Congress to improve maternal health outcomes, close geographic gaps, and support new families through our bill: the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services Act (Rural MOMS Act).

Americans who live in rural America know that it’s the close-knit bonds of community that make small towns thrive.

The Rural MOMS Act leverages that sense of community.

Family physicians are a trusted resource, and many have built a years-long relationship with their patients. In many cases, physicians care for patients from multiple generations in the same family.

By training more rural family physicians, and other community-based providers like physician assistants, to provide maternal care services, our legislation bolsters our capacity to deliver high-quality care closer to home.

The Rural MOMS Act is a bipartisan, commonsense solution to address the maternal health crisis we have in this country.

Through our bill, federal funding would help rural hospitals without obstetrics units work with regional providers to create collaborative care networks, share best practices, and measure outcomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that telehealth can connect patients with the care they need. The Rural MOMS Act would expand telehealth to create a “virtual highway” for maternal health care and save hours of travel time for pregnant women and new mothers.

With more training programs for local providers, more funding to purchase equipment like fetal health monitors and ultrasound machines, and more innovative ways to close geographic gaps, the Rural MOMS Act brings long-overdue investments for new and expecting mothers in rural America.

The zip code that families choose to live in shouldn’t mean they have to accept subpar resources for care.

Through this legislation, rural mothers and their children will get the care they need to foster the next branches of family trees in America’s small towns for generations to come.

• U.S. Representative Cindy Axne, Iowa Democrat, is a fifth-generation Iowan currently serving her in second term for the Third Congressional District. She serves on the House Agriculture and Financial Services Committees, and as the Midwest Regional Whip for the House Democratic Caucus. She is a mother of two, and co-owns her own small business with her husband John in West Des Moines.

• U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse, Washington Republican, is a lifelong resident of Central Washington and is honored to represent the 4th District in Congress. A third-generation Yakima Valley farmer, he brings real-world experience to Congress as a businessman and former state legislator ready to work hard in support of conservative solutions that encourage job creation and economic opportunity in Central Washington. Newhouse understands that looking out for taxpayers means that Congress must stay on budget and make the government work efficiently to fulfill its responsibilities.


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