Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) has introduced the Protect Moms from Domestic Violence Act to require a variety of studies examining the effect intimate partner violence (IPV) has on maternal health outcomes and a follow-up grant program because research on adverse outcomes, she noted, tends to focus on clinical factors rather than conditions for the mother.
“We know that during pregnancy, depression and stress can cause a range of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including poor pregnancy weight gain, preterm delivery, and stillbirths,” said Moore in a release. “This issue disproportionately touches the lives of certain women of color, with the rate of domestic violence amongst Black and Indigenous women is four times higher than the rate for white women.”
Moore said data shows 324,000 pregnant women experience intimate partner violence in the United States annually, with one out of six of those women experiencing abuse for the first time while they are pregnant. The abuse increases the likelihood of negative health outcomes, including vaginal bleeding, miscarriage or even perinatal death. “Their suffering is often invisible to the public, but the trauma can impact their physical health in and out of the delivery room,” Moore added.
The bill would initiate one study led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in consultation with the U.S. Attorney General office, the Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), and stakeholders on “the extent to which individuals are more at risk of maternal mortality or severe maternal morbidity as a result of being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, sex trafficking, child sexual abuse, or forced marriage,” it reads. “The resulting report would have to include best practices for reducing maternal mortality among IPV survivors and any recommended policy or legislative changes to reduce such mortality.”
The National Academy of Medicine would conduct a separate study focused on whether the above types of violence increase the risk of suicide, substance use or drug overdose among pregnant and postpartum women. And the HHS would follow up with guidelines and strategies for trauma informed care plans and oversee $25 million in grants, authorized by the bill, to groups doing work based on the results of the research through 2024.
Moore assembled a fact sheet showing the need for the studies based on statistics from the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) stating that around one out of four women have experienced sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and nearly 35% of survivors experience physical injury as a result. That is on top of other negative health outcomes that affect the heart, digestive, reproduction and nervous system, along with mental health problems like depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
The bill has a host of organizations — many health groups — that have endorsed the idea, including Futures Without Violence, the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health, March of Dimes, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), the American Medical Women’s Association and more than a dozen other groups.
In endorsing Moore’s bill, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ President J. Martin Tucker said, “Health care professionals, and particularly obstetrician-gynecologists, are often the first to offer care to patients who experience intimate partner violence (IPV). We also know that pregnancy is a time of increased risk for those experiencing IPV. As Congress continues its important work to reverse rising maternal mortality rates, it is critical that we better understand and address the role of IPV as a contributor to pregnancy-associated deaths, and support IPV training and education.”
“By closing this research gap and funding studies that examine the link between intimate partner violence and maternal health, policy-makers and health providers can challenge these issues head-on and craft effective solutions to alleviate this public health emergency,” added Moore.
Rep. Lauren Underwood, co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus joined Moore in backing the legislation, stating that the pandemic made life far more difficult for people experiencing intimate partner violence.
“Domestic violence rates have surged, which is a serious risk factor for negative pregnancy outcomes,” said Underwood. “We need to better understand the drivers of domestic violence and its impacts on pregnancy outcomes so we may take evidence-based actions to protect abuse victims and their children.”
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.