The House Health Committee introduces a major bill to improve the health of black mothers

The House Health Committee introduces a major bill to improve the health of black mothers

HARRISBURG, June 14 – The House Health Committee today presented a House-wide report on legislation that would ensure this proper maternal morbidity data collection while lawmakers work to reduce the growing and alarming number of maternal deaths in the state.

The bill (SB 262), the The addition of “severe maternal morbidity” to the list of reportable events within the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services reflects legislation that Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., authored in the last two terms and is an important part of efforts by Cephas and Reps. Gina H. Curry, D-Delaware, and La’Tasha D. Mayes, D-Allegheny, seek to reduce black maternal mortality and improve black maternal health in Pennsylvania.

Lawmakers said the recent death of Olympic track and field champion Tori Bowie sheds a bright light on the need to collect such data. An autopsy report released this week by the Orange County, Fla., Medical Examiner’s Office listed natural causes, but Bowie, 32, died of eclampsia, or shortness of breath, during labor. She was eight months pregnant.

“The tragic death of Tori Bowie demonstrates that a person’s socioeconomic status does not matter in the maternal mortality crisis plaguing our country, particularly for black women,” Curry said. “When I think of Tori, her birth journey shouldn’t have ended like this. Eclampsia can be treated if caught early as preeclampsia. It is time to take all necessary steps to ensure that people who are giving birth have the research, resources and support they need on their journey to childbirth.”

The reality for women in this country is serious, lawmakers said. Among resource-rich countries, the United States is the country with the lowest probability of having a child. Additionally, Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of the country in terms of maternal mortality rate, ranking 26thth in the country. Almost 19 out of every 100,000 live births in Pennsylvania result in maternal death. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for black women was 69.9 Deaths per 100,000 live births. And black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

In April, the House Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing during Black Maternal Health Week, which provided an opportunity for the public to deepen conversations about black maternal mortality and black maternal health in Pennsylvania. said Curry, Cephas and Mayes Statement from this hearing set out a roadmap that lawmakers could follow to eliminate inequalities in black mothers’ care and indeed improve care for all mothers.

“The first step in tackling maternal morbidity and mortality is proper data collection,” Cephas said. “Accurate and regular follow-up is essential for comprehensive research on this complex medical topic. We must fully understand the outcomes of people’s births if we work to improve maternal care and maternal health outcomes. I am pleased that this legislation is moving closer to the governor’s desk and becoming law.”

Mayes said proper reporting will also help identify the “merits” for maternal care. She said April’s public hearing showed that systemic racism and gender bias play an important role in maternal deaths among blacks.

“Better follow-up and reporting will ensure that Black moms and laborers are heard,” Mayes said. “We know Pennsylvania needs more people in the medical and perinatal fields who look like the people they work with to deliver healthy babies and eliminate inequalities in birth outcomes. This data can help us identify areas where we need more professionals, such as doulas who can provide emotional, informational, and physical support before, during, and after birth.”

The bill will now go to the full House of Representatives for a vote, which could happen as early as next week. If the House of Representatives passes the bill without amendment, it will go straight to Governor Josh Shapiro for signature.

Curry, Cephas and Mayes are all members of the Women’s Health Caucus and the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, which came together to address the state’s black maternal mortality problem.

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