PA Women's Health Caucus chairs respond to Joint Policy Hearing on Maternal Health

HARRISBURG, Feb. 10 -- Today, the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus (WHC) hosted a Joint Policy Hearing with the PA House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees on the topic of Maternal Health Amidst COVID-19. Co-Chairs of the WHC include Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks), Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery, Delaware), Representative Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) and Representative Mary Jo Daley (D-Narberth).

“Today’s policy hearing on maternal health amidst COVID-19 was incredibly informative.  This was a broad discussion about maternal mortality and its prevalence in black women; COVID vaccines; telemedicine and other innovative tools for patients to keep in touch with their health care providers; and the impact of quarantine on pregnant and postpartum individuals,” said Representative Mary Jo Daley. “In Pennsylvania, we are so fortunate to have health care practitioners including physicians, nurse-midwives and psychologists as well as lactation consultants and doulas who provide services during the pregnancy and postpartum time.  The need for legislative action on policies that support pregnant women and their families was discussed by the panelists, most of whom have direct interaction with pregnant women, their families, and their support systems.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has cautioned pregnant women to take preventative measures in avoiding exposure to COVID-19, as they are considered to be at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with the virus, including possible adverse birth outcomes. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized in the intensive care unit and receive mechanical ventilation than non-pregnant women, but they are not at greater risk of death from COVID-19 than non-pregnant women (American Hospital Association, 2020).

"Today's hearing proved once again how important it is to listen to women, and that we need to focus on inclusion and diversity," Senator Judy Schwank said. "Some of the suggestions we heard today could literally save lives if we're able to implement them through policy change or legislation. For example, several of our experts mentioned ensuring pregnant patients have access to monitoring equipment, like an at-home blood pressure cuff, to catch potentially life-ending health problems early. We’ve asked the experts for their advice and they’ve absolutely risen to that challenge. Now my colleagues and I must take this torch and keep this momentum going."

Policy recommendations from our panelists included eliminating barriers to healthcare access, expanding broadband access for telemedicine, and expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year.

“As co-chair for the Women’s Health Caucus and a newly appointed member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, it is imperative for me to ensure that conversations on maternal health continue to be elevated. Testifiers from today’s hearing helped us to understand the impacts of COVID19 on pregnant individuals, mothers, and the healthcare system, but also reiterated much of what we already knew. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues in the House and Senate to take what we discussed in today’s hearing and turn it into substantial reforms that improve maternal health outcomes across the commonwealth,” said Representative Cephas.

The panels covered diverse topics relative to maternal health, including Maternal Care During COVID-19, Vaccines & Pregnancy, Telemedicine, Prenatal Care, & Labor & Delivery, the COVID-19 Vaccine, and the Impact of Quarantine on Pregnant & Postpartum Individuals.

“Today's policy hearing highlighted the struggle pregnant and nursing people faced prior to the pandemic and how that struggle has increased exponentially since the pandemic. As policymakers, we must take what we heard today and continue to fight for the support and programs pregnant and nursing people need for them and their families to thrive. One vital aspect to that is access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Senator Cappelletti. “We must provide pregnant and nursing individuals with scientifically valid, trustworthy, and easy to access information about how it may or may not affect their health and the health of their child.”

As a caucus, we would like to thank our panelists, and everyone who participated in and coordinated today’s hearing. We will continue this conversation far past today and continue to hold important discussions on Women's Health issues. Our caucus is committed to advocating for the health of women and families across the Commonwealth.

Below are all who testified in today’s hearing:

  • Dr. Mark Woodland, M.S., M.D., FACOG, Chair & Clinical Professor OB-GYN, Reading Hospital/Tower Health, Interim Academic Chair, OBGYN Drexel University College of Medicine
  • Dr. Hyagriv “Hy” Simhan, UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, Division Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine
  • Dr. Richard Beigi, UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, President, OB-GYN
  • Dr. Aasta Mehta , M.D., M.P.P., FACOG - Philadelphia MMRC, Philadelphia Dept of Health, PA MMRC
  • Dr. Sindhu Srivinas , Director of Obstetrical Services - UPenn/Penn Medicine
  • Nicole Chaney, Certified Nurse-Midwife, Reading Hospital
  • Markita Glenn, Doula, Pettaway Pursuit Foundation
  • Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, Maternal Fetal Health Specialist, Baystate Health
  • Dr. Richard S. Legro, M.D, Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Public Health Sciences, Penn State Health College of Medicine and Penn State Health
  • Dr. Catharine I. Paules, M.D., Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases, Penn State Health College of Medicine and Penn State Health
  • Dr. Rhonda C. Boyd, Ph.D., Psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Demia Horsley, M.P.H., CLC (DONA), LCCE, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Healthy Start, Inc.

The full recording of today’s hearing will be available at: