Weekly Column

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Each January, many Nebraskans travel more than 1,000 miles to proudly join the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and this year was no exception. These Nebraskans drew attention to the pro-life, pro-women values they hold dear. While being pro-life and pro-women of course involves protecting the unborn, it means extending care and compassion to expectant mothers as well.

As a mother myself, I know firsthand that pregnancy and the weeks following birth can be an exciting yet worrisome time as women seek to keep themselves and their babies as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, despite a mother’s best efforts, there are still serious gaps in maternal health outcomes across our nation today.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most severe complications related to pregnancy, known as severe maternal morbidity, impact over 50,000 women in the U.S. every year. For pregnant women in rural areas, local resources supporting maternal health may be strained, and the nearest hospital is often far away, putting mothers and their babies at serious risk. That’s why I was proud to join my colleagues, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to introduce the bipartisan Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act.

This legislation would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use data mapping to identify areas in the U.S. that have both internet access gaps as well as high rates of poor maternal outcomes. The FCC has already mapped similar information related to internet service gaps and diabetes rates. This data would illustrate where access to telehealth services can be most effective. Maternal telehealth services involve using internet-connected technologies—such as video consultations with specialists and devices that remotely monitor vital signs—to provide long-distance health care.

I am a strong advocate of expanding telehealth services for Nebraskans. After I wrote a letter to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in 2018 outlining the need for better broadband availability to support much-needed rural telehealth services, the FCC announced a new telehealth initiative called the “Connected Care Pilot Program” that could increase Nebraskans’ access to life-saving technology. 

More broadly, I have long pushed for strategies to expand rural broadband connectivity. Most recently, in December, I joined my colleagues in writing a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urging the agency to prioritize support for sustainable rural broadband networks. One way to achieve this is through improved broadband mapping, which is why I helped introduce legislation in 2017 and cosponsored the Broadband DATA Act last year to ensure the FCC’s broadband coverage maps accurately reflect broadband deployment across America. It is important—especially when it comes to something as critical as maternal health care—that all Nebraskans enjoy high-speed and reliable connectivity whether they live in a city or a rural community.

As I reflect on this year’s March for Life, I think of all the Nebraskans who proudly stood up for their pro-life, pro-women values. I believe that the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act honors those values.

By mapping broadband network information alongside rates of maternal morbidity, this bill would leverage data to boost positive maternal health outcomes and save the lives of expectant mothers and their babies—particularly in rural and underserved communities in the Heartland. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I will continue to work to build support among my colleagues for this legislation.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.