In an unanimous vote on Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which seeks to fund state-level efforts to look into what’s killing new and expectant mothers across the U.S. The bill, which still needs to go through the Senate, lays out a plan to give out $12 million in funding to states per year, over the next five years. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists described the legislation as “landmark,” according to a report from the House vote from ProPublica.
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation in the world, according to a series on the issue by ProPublica and NPR published. More than 50,000 women encounter life-threatening conditions when seeking pregnancy-related care in the health care system, and research shows that black women who have their babies at hospitals are disproportionately affected by this standard of care. These complications lead to hundreds of deaths of new and expectant moms per year in the U.S., deaths that could be preventable if we had the knowledge to identify where the complications arise and train health care professionals to avoid them.
The bill lays out how its proposed funding will be used to create committees tasked with investigating the maternal mortality rate at the state-level; such efforts exist currently, but not all are well-funded. Because of that, our understanding of what’s driving this mortality rate is hazy. This level of federal funding should empower committees at the state level to dig into their communities for answers, and help fill in gaps in the nation’s understanding of maternal care. This would be a crucial step, as the bill states, towards reducing the number of and preventing pregnancy-related deaths across the country.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Butler, a Republican from Washington state, is the lead sponsor of the bill; she is also “staunchly anti-abortion,” according to CNN, and has spoken only about her daughter, who was born without kidneys. ProPublica reports that at a hearing in September, the congresswoman voiced her support of the bill by saying: “We’re going to investigate every single [death] because these moms are worth it.”