Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Study U.S. Rising Maternal Mortality Rate

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Heidi Heitkamp recently introduced bipartisan legislation to help stop the rate of maternal deaths in the United States — which, unlike any other industrialized country, are on the rise.

Senators Capito and Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill would work to boost on-the-ground resources to combat this growing crisis by expanding maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) that study and address the causes of maternal death cases to make pregnancies safe. Across the country, maternal mortality rates increased by an alarming 26 percent from 2000 to 2014 alone, yet MMRCs still do not exist in 18 states. In Native American Country, maternal mortality rates are staggering — occurring 1.5 times more often than the rest of the population.

By better supporting existing MMRCs and building such resources to other states, Senators Capito and Heitkamp are working to find out what is causing women in the U.S. to die from pregnancy complications more than any other developed country and reach solutions that prevent these deaths from happening. With better work to address this growing epidemic, the bill would help expecting mothers access the resources like hospital facilities — a growing challenge in rural communities — so they can have healthier pregnancies.

“The number of women dying in this country due to pregnancy complications is staggering — especially when you compare it to every other developed nation. Even worse is the sad fact that the number is growing,” Senator Capito said. “As a mother myself, I understand both the fears and the incredible joys that come with having a child. We absolutely have to get a handle on this problem, and the Maternal Health Accountability Act will help us better understand and address it.”

“When women in the United States are dying from pregnancy complications more than any other developed nation, we’re dealing with a health crisis,” Senator Heitkamp said. “There is no reason the United States should be the only industrialized country where maternal deaths are on the rise. That’s unacceptable, and we need to get to the bottom of why that’s happening – and fast – and find solutions. That’s exactly what our bipartisan bill would do. By expanding resources that work to study why pregnancy-related deaths are happening, we can better protect expecting mothers and families, and make sure they have access to the support, like rural hospitals, they need to for healthy pregnancies and to have healthy babies.”

“We’re very pleased to provide joint leadership with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for this effort and thank Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Heidi Heitkamp for introducing legislation that will drastically reduce maternal death and disability across the United States,” said Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

“As Mother’s Day approaches, we cannot ignore the fact that the United States ranks 47th for its maternal mortality rate, and is the only industrialized nation with a rising rate,” said American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists President Haywood Brown, M.D. “Also, black moms in America are almost four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication than white moms. This is unacceptable for our families and communities, especially considering most of these deaths are preventable. In order to fix the problem, we must understand why these tragic deaths are occurring. The Maternal Health Accountability Act will support local stakeholders in collecting critical data and creating locally-relevant public health solutions. ACOG applauds Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Shelley Moore Capito for leading this effort for mothers and babies across the country.”

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