U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill to fund state committees to review and investigate deaths of expectant and new mothers. Now it moves to the Senate.
Congress moved a big step closer on Tuesday toward addressing one of the most fundamental problems underlying the maternal mortality crisis in the United States: the shortage of reliable data about what kills American mothers.
The House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, to help states improve how they track and investigate deaths of expectant and new mothers.
The bipartisan bill authorizes $12 million a year in new funds for five years — an unprecedented level of federal support — for states to create review committees tasked with identifying maternal deaths, analyzing the factors that contributed to those deaths and translating the lessons into policy changes. Roughly two-thirds of states have such panels, but the legislation specifically allocates federal funds for the first time and sets out guidelines they must meet to receive those grants.
“We’re going to investigate every single [death] because these moms are worth it,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., the lead sponsor, testified at a hearing in September. Lisa Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called the legislation a “landmark.”
The full Senate still needs to give its approval, with only a few days to act before the end of the current session. Senators have already authorized the necessary funding, in budget legislation that passed this year.
As ProPublica and NPR have documented in the “Lost Mothers” series, maternal deaths have been rising in the U.S. in recent years even as they declined in other wealthy countries. More than 700 women die each year in America from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth, while at least 50,000 suffer life-threatening complications. Nationally, black women have a maternal mortality rate three to four times higher than that of white women. At least 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.