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Maternal wellness, racial disparities topics of discussion as Kaine visits Lynchburg

Maternal wellness, racial disparities topics of discussion as Kaine visits Lynchburg

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Of the Virginia communities Sen. Tim Kaine has met with to discuss maternal health and racial disparities in care and outcomes, he said, Lynchburg seems to be a bit ahead of the curve in finding community solutions.

Kaine stopped by the Community Access Network clinic downtown Friday to hear from local voices about where and how they see those issues manifesting.

For Miraj Bryan, who sat next to the senator during the roundtable discussion, the disparities in maternal care hit close to home.

She said she struggled with mental health issues during her pregnancies and eventually realized she needed to surround herself with other expecting mothers who understood what she was going through and could be a strong pillar of support.

“I did not know what I was doing,” she told the group.

Bryan found that support in The Motherhood Collective, and later decided to volunteer with the nonprofit and be there for other new or future moms.

Besides The Motherhood Collective, a host of OB-GYN professionals and experts in related fields shared the obstacles they’ve seen hinder equality and success in maternal wellness.

Some of those issues included the mandatory 30-day wait period for people on Medicaid who want to get a tubal ligation, lack of Medicaid reimbursement for helpful services like postpartum home visits and the lack of African American professionals in medical and psychological spaces for mothers.

Ashley Marshall, the executive director of the YWCA of Central Virginia, stressed the need for more diversity in the medical field and awareness of the health effect biases have on women of color — since increased risks for African American women exist across socioeconomic lines.

The CDC reports black and Native American women are two to three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth complications. Women of color older than 30 are four to five times more likely to die of pregnancy- related causes, and college-educated women of color are more than five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts.

“I don’t have children because I know the numbers,” Marshall said.

Christina Delzingaro, CEO of the clinic, asked Kaine whether there could be increased federal pressure to mandate paid parental leave. Kaine said he saw a law ensuring up to 12 weeks of parental leave for federal employees, enacted late last year, as the first step toward implementing that nationally, adding the issue has seen recent bipartisan support.

Kaine told reporters he’ll be taking Friday’s recommendations back to compare with a bill he’s drafting that he said will bolster support for pregnant women and newborns. He said he’s seeking a Republican co-sponsor and wants to get more input and tweaks to the bill from across the aisle.

“Traditionally the more you do that, then the more buy-in you get and then the more likely [it is] that you get passed,” he said, acknowledging legislative gridlock in the Senate.

About an hour before walking through the clinic’s doors, Kaine tweeted his endorsement for presidential candidate Joe Biden. With Virginia voters gearing up to vote on Super Tuesday, he said he didn’t want to back one of the many candidates vying for the nomination only to see them drop out of the race before the primary.

While he said he knows and respects the other candidates, he told reporters Friday that Biden was his choice for being an example of “decency” that he wants to see in the White House.

“I always have the same three questions: Will you be a good president? Can you win? And can you win Virginia?” he said.

Following his visit to Community Access Network, Kaine met with Lynchburg Beacon of Hope, a nonprofit that aims to prepare students for education after high school, to discuss its programs and his own bill that creates a community college and career training grant program.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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