U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, co-sponsored legislation last week that seeks to reduce the nation’s disturbingly high maternal mortality and morbidity rate.
The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world, and the country ranks 47th for maternal mortality globally, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. is now one of only eight countries in which the maternal mortality rate is rising.
Between 700 and 900 American women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes each year, and more than 50,000 endure life-threatening complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Herrera Beutler’s bill, jointly introduced with U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to design and implement a national strategy to combat maternal mortality. The goal is to halve the rate of maternal mortality by the end of the decade and completely eliminate preventable maternal deaths within the next 20 years.
“Congress needs to take action to help make giving birth a safer experience for moms across this country,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release Monday. “I’ve heard far too many stories of women dying or experiencing traumatic health challenges in childbirth, and so many of the issues they’re confronting are preventable.”
The plan is intended to improve data collection, eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy outcomes, and encourage the use of best practices by hospitals and health care providers. It would be developed in conjunction with patient advocates, health care providers, hospitals and medical practitioners, and public health officials, according to Herrera Beutler’s office.
While the federal government collects detailed data on automobile deaths and aviation safety, a recent ProPublica investigation found that the United States has not published official maternal mortality statistics in more than a decade.
Many states have created Maternal Mortality Review Committees, but 16 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have not set up MMRCs due in part to a lack of funds.
The bill currently has 16 co-sponsors, including 15 Democrats and one Republican. The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Herrera Beutler is one of just 10 women in history who have given birth while serving in Congress.
“We just celebrated the moms in our lives and I’m hopeful that as the number of mothers in Congress grows, this body will continue to commemorate the day with life-saving solutions for families everywhere,” she said.