On Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 315, the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act, which collects information on health professional shortage areas identified as in need of maternity care health services and distributes maternity care health professionals to those areas.

Geographic maldistribution of health care providers has resulted in a shortage of maternity care providers in rural America. The Improving Access to Maternity Care Act will improve the geographic distribution of maternity care providers by creating maternity health professional target areas.

This bill, sponsored by Representatives Burgess (R-TX-26), Eshoo (D-CA-18) and Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), passed the House in January of 2017. A Senate companion bill, sponsored by Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Baldwin (D-WI), passed the Senate on Dec. 7, 2018.

“In Wisconsin, we have a number of rural counties that have no access to any obstetrician or gynecologist,” Senator Tammy Baldwin told POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein. “I heard from a constituent who ended up driving 90 minutes in labor to get to a physician who could deliver her baby. That shouldn’t be.”

In May, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) joined with the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Every Mother Counts (EMC) to host a lunch briefing on this legislation and to raise awareness about the challenges in rural maternity care.

While the passage of the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act is a victory for rural mothers and families, there is still more work to do. We at NRHA look forward to continuing to work with our partners here in Washington and across the country to ensure that every expecting mother has access to the care she needs.