HMHBGA

Congress Passes Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Maternal Deaths

Author: HMHB Team

December 12, 2018 – Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, after two very strong years of advocacy and bipartisan support, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act (H.R.1318) passed the House of Representatives. The Act was introduced by Rep. Herrera Beutler, Jaime [R-WA-3] in March of 2017. H.R.1318 would establish and support state Maternal Mortality Review Committees to review every pregnancy-related or pregnancy-associated death, and based on those findings, develop recommendations for how to prevent future mothers’ deaths.

“Today marks an important day in addressing our country’s maternal mortality crisis, as this is the strongest step Congress has taken to date to reverse it. By providing states with resources to investigate every maternal death, we can begin to tackle this troubling trend and take appropriate steps to prevent such tragedies in the future. As moms and lawmakers, this is personal to us, and it was an honor to join with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to lead this life-saving measure successfully through the House. We must improve our understanding of why mothers are dying in pregnancy, during childbirth and post-partum so we can then unleash every possible resource to protect women in this critical season of life. We hope the Senate will take swift action to pass this critical legislation so we can send it to the President’s desk,” said U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Diana DeGette.

You can read Rep. Beutler’s full press release here.

Elise Blasingame, HMHB Executive Director (far right) visits Senator Perdue’s team in 2018 to advocate for HR 1318

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia strongly supports the passage of this legislation. Our Executive Director was in D.C. with the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) to advocate for its passage earlier this year. We congratulate our friends at AMCHP on this important step forward!

We would also like to thank and congratulate our good friend, Charles Johnson, and the 4Kira4Moms team for their incredible work to bring this issue to light in Washington D.C. over the past two years.  Kira Johnson, Charles Johnson’s wife, tragically lost her life after a routine c-section at Cedars Sinai. Kira was allowed to bleed internally for more than 10 hours before the medical staff at Cedars Sinai took action.  When she passed, she left behind Charles and their two sons. Since then, Charles has been sharing their story with policymakers and at events with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to ensure these preventable deaths do not continue. Charles Johnson also serves on the Program Advisory Committee for Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia and was our 2017 Carolyn Wetzel Advocate of the Year Award winner.

Charles Johnson embraces long time friend and HMHB Board President, Pamela Wilkes during the 2017 Carolyn Wetzel Award Ceremony in Dublin, GA

How Does This Impact Georgia?
The Georgia General Assembly established our Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) in 2012 after Amnesty International published a scathing report on maternal mortality across the United States, citing Georgia as the state with the worst maternal death rate (2011). To date, the MMRC has reviewed maternal deaths for 2012, 2013 and now 2014 (to be published soon). Georgia is only three years of cases away from being caught up. The Committee uses the review tools provided by the Centers for Disease Control Foundation that examine both the medical and social factors that contribute to maternal deaths in our State. You can learn more about that methodology by visiting www.mmria.org.

Recently, maternal mortality made headlines again when the Atlanta Journal Constitution published that Georgia once again ranks 50th in the nation for maternal mortality. “While we are certainly not where we need to be in the national rankings, these figures do have to be taken with a grain of salt,” explains HMHB Executive Director, Elise Blasingame. “If you have 11 states that do not have maternal mortality review committees, so they are not even routinely examining the causes of maternal deaths, it is difficult to compare. Moreover, we have not examined the 2017 cases in Georgia to see whether those deaths were pregnancy related (aggravated or caused by the pregnancy or birth) or pregnancy associated (not related to childbearing). We want to know if the deaths were pregnancy-related and/or if the deaths were preventable. This data really matters. That being said, we know from the 2012-2013 case reviews that black women experienced a pregnancy related death 4x more often than white women, so we know that regardless of the overall ranking, we have to do better to improve the care and access of perinatal services for women of color in Georgia. We also know that 50% of all pregnancy-related deaths were preventable.”

The legislation will ensure that all states will move toward having a maternal mortality review committee and will gain the necessary supports and resources to ensure timely and accurate review of those cases to identify trends and solutions. We will also have more accurate data to compare between states to identify larger trends across the United States.

“Once all states have adequate resources to expertly review maternal deaths, we can achieve greater success in both honoring the lives of mothers lost and equipping our nation to prevent future deaths during pregnancy and in the following year,” said Jonathan Webb, CEO of AMCHP. You can see AMCHP’s full press release here.

How Can You Help?
First of all, please take a moment to thank the four co-sponsors of this legislation from Georgia:

H.R. 1318 GA Cosponsors
Rep. Lewis, John [D-GA-5]
GA Office: (404) 659-0116
DC Office: (202) 225-3801
Rep. Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [D-GA-2]
GA Office: 229-439-8067
DC Office: 202-225-3631
Rep. Scott, David [D-GA-13]
GA Office: (770) 210-5073
DC Office: (202) 225-2939
Rep. Johnson, Henry “Hank” C., Jr. [D-GA-4]
GA Office: (770) 987-2291
DC Office: (202) 225-1605

Need a template? Email us at: thecoalition@hmhbga.org.

UPDATE:

On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Senate approved H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act by unanimous consent. The bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Congratulations to all of the supporters of this critical legislation!

Please take a moment to thank our Georgia Senators who supported the passage of this legislation in the Senate:
Senator Johnny Isakson
GA Office: (770) 661-0999
DC Office: (202) 224-3643

Senator David Perdue
GA Office: (404) 865-0087
DC Office: (202) 224-3521