A bipartisan group of lawmakers is teaming up to do something about the United States’ rising rate of maternal deaths. Some 2,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes, putting the U.S. behind the majority of the world’s developed countries in this most basic measure of the nation’s costly medical system.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), filed the bill late last week, which aims to help states better track and respond to the dismal numbers. The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act would help states establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees, improve data collection, identify solutions for improving healthcare outcomes. It would also help states examine the significant racial disparities apparent in these deaths, according to a statement from Herrera Beutler.
Roughly 17 women die for every 100,000 lives births in the U.S., according to latest available data from the CDC. Estimates from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists put that number even higher. And the American numbers are trending upward, contrasting with an international decline. What’s more, black women are almost four times more likely to die in connection with pregnancy and birth than white women, a crisis Fusion TV explores in the new documentary, The Naked Truth: Death By Delivery, hosted by Fusion correspondent Nelufar Hedayat, airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
“This should not still be an issue in 2017, which is why we must act now to review this issue and improve health outcomes for all women,” Conyers said in a statement.
“For the sake of so many mothers and babies, we have to do better,” Herrera Beutler added in the release announcing the bill. The bill, introduced Thursday, has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) are also cosponsors.
Conyers has repeatedly called for legislation to address the rising maternal mortality rates, with little success. He first introduced a bill in 2011, which garnered one Republican and 63 Democratic cosponsors. This time around, with more GOP lawmakers signing on from the start, the bill may stand a better chance. Still, it faces a tough road given President Donald Trump’s call for significant cuts to non-military spending.
Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Preeclampsia Foundation have endorsed the bill, and it is being pitched as a state-focused measure, rather than a federal mandate, which could also earn it more support from the Republican-led Congress.
The bill comes at a crucial time as Congress seeks to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, which has been praised for providing important health benefits to women, such as mandated coverage of birth control at no additional cost, and increased access to health care in general—both of which can help prevent pregnancy-related deaths. On Monday, Republicans unveiled the plan, which would roll back expanded access to Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood, among other changes.