The Pennsylvania Senate today unanimously approved legislation that would create a statewide review committee to identify and investigate pregnancy-related deaths among expectant and new mothers, according to Senators Lisa Baker (R-20) and Judy Schwank (D-11), who strongly supported the measure.
Baker, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said House Bill 1869 would establish a 14-member Maternal Mortality Review Committee, made up of experts who would obtain a more accurate count of the deaths of women who die within one year of the end of a pregnancy, determine their cause and develop recommendations to prevent such deaths.
“National maternal mortality rates have seen a sharp increase in the United States, and the rate has more than doubled in Pennsylvania since 1994,” Baker said. “We need to better identify the cause of pregnancy-related deaths and recommend actions to prevent them.”
Between 700 and 900 women die each year in the U.S. from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth, and the rate of life-threatening complications has soared in the past few decades, impacting more than 50,000 women annually.
“It is truly unacceptable that a country the world often turns to for medical advances is still seeing an increase in the maternal mortality rate. Over the span of 14 years, the U.S. maternal mortality rate increased by 26 percent,” said Schwank who serves as the minority chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “We need data – accurate data – to find ways to improve quality of care and educate health professionals, women, and families about preventing pregnancy-related deaths and complications.”
“The creation of this committee will play a critical role in ensuring that pregnancy-related deaths are identified and reviewed, and in promoting initiatives to prevent these tragedies,” Baker said. “Our goal is to consistently track and record this data so we can translate it into policy changes that can help save lives.”
Currently, 32 states, including the surrounding states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and West Virginia, have maternal mortality review committees in operation or in development.