Last week, House GOP members were hiding away their Affordable Care Act replacement bill and crafting new laws that stripped away women’s coverage. However, a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing maternal deaths was introduced, showing that at least some lawmakers may actually care about women’s health.
Four members of the House introduced the Preventing Maternal Death Act, which would establish, at the state level, boards tasked with studying the causes of pregnancy-related deaths and finding ways to save the lives of mothers and their babies.
In recent years, the United States has shown a troubling trend – the maternal mortality rate has doubled, while globally that number has declined. Tracking down a specific reason why more mothers are dying has proved difficult.
Part of the difficulty is that states, health organizations, and individual health providers all have different formulas for reporting maternal mortality. The bill aims to fix that by standardizing the data so that causes can be more readily identified.
In a joint press release, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-AP), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) said that, “Pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths are caused by a variety of factors, from complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and obstetric hemorrhage, to emerging challenges such as suicide and overdose due to substance use disorder.”
Rep. Herrera Beutler is hopeful that the bill will lead to better outcomes:
“Unlike in any other industrialized nation, the U.S. is seeing a rise in pregnancy-related deaths. For the sake of so many mothers and babies, we have to do better. Helping to establish and support Maternity Mortality Review Committees in states is a direct way to reverse this trend. I hope that through this legislative effort, we can help save the lives of women and children during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postpartum period.”
While the rate of maternal deaths has increased, another troubling trend has shown no sign of improvement. Citing a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the press release points out that,
“disparities in maternal health care have not improved in more than 20 years. African American women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.”
The bill, which is backed by The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Preeclampsia Foundation, is modeled after Colorado’s recently formed Maternal Mortality Prevention Program. Colorado, which ranks 29th among states in maternal mortality, has identified drug overdoses and suicides as the two biggest causes of pregnancy-related death. They have also identified other key factors in the metric, such as income levels, education, population density, and even the state’s topography. Now the state is working to “develop actionable strategies to reduce and eliminate future deaths.”
Meanwhile, earlier this week the House GOP rolled out their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Under their proposal, maternity coverage will no longer be part of federal law, Planned Parenthood will lose funding that provides cancer screenings, birth control, and preventative health measures for women, and abortion coverage will likely be excluded from private insurance plans.
As regressive as the GOP’s American Health Care Act bill looks, it may have been a comforting thought that there are those on both sides of the aisle still fighting for women’s rights. However, this may be a case of one step forward and several miles back, as both Herrera Beutler and Costello voted to begin repealing the ACA.