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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate Sends Legislation To Protect Infants, Children And Birthing Parents To Governor John Carney

June 29, 2022

DOVER – The Delaware Senate on Wednesday sent four bills that will protect the health and safety of infants, children, and birthing parents to Governor John Carney for his signature.

“While some of our colleagues are focused almost exclusively on controlling what happens inside the womb, Democrats in the House and Senate have consistently put forward legislation that helps families and their children to live safe, healthy and productive lives,” said Sen. Sarah McBride, chair of the Senate Health & Social Service Committee. “The bills we passed today and throughout this legislative session will continue that work by improving maternal health and protecting children from abuse.”

House Bill 340 and House Bill 343 are both part of the seven-blll Momnibus legislative package sponsored by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown in March.

HB 340 will revamp the Child Death Review Commission to include greater focus on maternal health concerns. The Commission would be renamed the Maternal and Child Death Review Commission to reflect its existing dual focus. The definition of “maternal death” would also be updated and the Commission would reflect diverse membership to include a midwife and one maternal and one child advocate from statewide non-profit organizations. To enhance transparency, the group would be required to publicly post its draft report and accept written public comment.

“This Maternal and Child Death Review Commission provides an opportunity to make a significant impact on maternal health and outcomes for all women, but especially those who now need it most,” said Rep. Minor-Brown.  “Data has shown an alarming rate of maternal mortality locally and nationally. The death rate for Black women and their babies are two to three times higher than the rate for White women, and many of these cases are preventable. We can and will do better.”

“Far too many women suffer from pregnancy complications that can lead to injury or death,” said Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 340. “By reviewing the data, studying patterns, and investigating the causes of maternal deaths, we can better identify solutions and mobilize to enact them.”

HB 343 will require the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to present a plan to the General Assembly by November 1 for coverage of doula services by Medicaid providers. The services would be provided by a trained doula designed to provide physical, emotional, and educational support to pregnant and birthing persons before, during, and after childbirth. This would include support and assistance during labor and childbirth, prenatal and postpartum support and education, breastfeeding assistance, and parenting education.

The bill goes hand in hand with the recently passed House Bill 234, which would require the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance to expand Medicaid coverage to pregnant women from the current coverage of 60 days from the end of pregnancy under federal Medicaid regulations to 12 months from the end of pregnancy.

“Too many disorders manifest during pregnancy and can impact a woman’s health for a lifetime,” Rep. Minor-Brown said. “Midwives and doulas are advocates that provide much needed additional support for women. Implementing coverage of doula services will make a huge impact on families especially in the face of maternal mortality rates, ensuring that people get the resources they need.” 

“Our nation has the highest rate of pregnancy-related mortality of high-income countries and, here in Delaware, the infant mortality rate for Black babies is more than twice the rate for White babies,” said Sen. Marie Pinkney, the Senate prime sponsor of both HB 234 and HB 343. “Taken together, these two bills will help to reverse those trends by breaking down some of the barriers that families face when it comes to receiving the support and treatment we know can save lives.”

While HB 340 and HB 343 are both focused on healthy outcomes for infants and birthing parents, House Bill 428 and House Bill 462 will enhance existing protections for children who face sexual and physical abuse.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Sen. Nicole Poore, HB 428 will expand Delaware existing sexual exploitation laws that criminalize child pornography to also include the creation, possession and distribution of images of children partially nude, scantily clad or otherwise intended for sexual stimulation.

HB 428 is a part of the SAFE legislation package sponsored by Sen. Nicole Poore in May to help better protect students from child predators and help better protect victims of sexual exploitation. 

“Adults who traffic in these sexually exploitive images of children are very savvy and know how to skirt the letter of the law to avoid prosecution,” Sen. Nicole Poore said. “This bill will make that much harder and, in doing so, help make it easier to prosecute child sexual predators and protect innocent children from being the objects of their abuse.”

Sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith and Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, HB 462 will enhance the ability to work across state agencies to address child abuse and better protect the welfare of abused children. The bill also creates a framework for parties in Family Court civil proceedings to access forensic interview records created by child advocacy centers to avoid re-interviewing them for court proceedings.

“While protecting the privacy of families and children is critically important, our strict confidentiality laws also have occasionally proven to be an impediment to seeking justice for the very children they seek to protect,” Sen. Gay said.  “I want to thank Rep. Griffith for putting forward legislation that seeks to find a balance more aligned with the interests of child victims and prevents them from having to suffer the trauma of reliving their abuse.”