Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Jun 26 2018

Senate Committee Passes Heitkamp-Capito Bill to Halt Rising Maternal Mortality Rates

Bipartisan Legislation Would Encourage Additional Research into Maternal Death Cases & Seek Local Solutions to Curtail an Increase in Preventable Deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) announced that their bipartisan legislation to help examine and combat the ongoing maternal mortality crisis in the United States passed today out of a Senate committee. The next step is a vote in the full Senate.

Unlike any other industrial country in the world, the maternal death rate in the United States is on the rise. Across the country, maternal mortality rates increased by an alarming 26 percent from 2000 to 2014. And in Indian Country, maternal mortality rates are staggering— occurring 1.5 times more often than the rest of the population.

Heitkamp and Capito’s bipartisan bill would strengthen on-the-ground resources to combat this growing crisis by expanding maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) that study and address the causes of maternal death cases and work to increase the number of safe and successful pregnancies. MMRCs do not exist in 18 states, including North Dakota and West Virginia.

“In the twenty-first century, no mother should have to worry about dying during childbirth, especially in a country as advanced as the United States. Rising maternal mortality rates must be urgently addressed, and we need to better understand this crisis so we can more effectively tackle it,” said Heitkamp. “Addressing the high rate of deaths due to pregnancy complications should be a national health care priority, including in North Dakota’s rural and tribal communities. That’s why I’m proud to see our bipartisan bill advance today, so that we can find real solutions to lower maternal death rates across the country. By expanding access to cutting-edge research and beefing up information sharing, we’re giving physicians and health care providers the tools they need improve the quality of life in their communities and continue to fight this pressing crisis. We need to keep working to get this bill across the finish line so we can continue to spread best practices, find new ways to prevent these tragedies, and protect our mothers and families.”

“Maternal mortality rates have been drastically rising across the country, and we need to do more to reverse that,” said Capito. “The Maternal Health Accountability Act will help us figure out what is causing this startling trend and how we can better prevent the same situations from happening in the future. I’m glad to see the HELP Committee passed this bipartisan legislation, because we’re now one step closer to strengthening our efforts to protect these mothers.”

By strengthening support for existing MMRCs and helping additional states create MMRCs, Heitkamp and Capito’s Maternal Health Accountability Act would examine the causes of U.S. deaths due to pregnancy complications and would help find feasible solutions to address the ongoing crisis in local communities. With additional research into this growing epidemic, the bipartisan bill would help expecting mothers access critical health care resources like hospital facilities, so they can experience healthier pregnancies.

“All moms— no matter where they live, no matter what they can or can’t afford— deserve the vital pregnancy and postpartum care they need to deliver a healthy future for themselves and their babies. Every maternal death is unspeakably tragic, but the estimated 60 percent of maternal deaths in the U.S.  that could be prevented with the proper care should be completely unacceptable to each and every one of us,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and founder of the What to Expect Foundation and WhatToExpect.com. “The health and wellbeing of our future depends on the health and wellbeing of our moms, and that’s not a partisan issue— that’s a fundamental human issue. That’s why I applaud the bipartisan efforts of my fellow moms, Senators Heitkamp and Capito in introducing the Maternal Mortality Accountability Act. When it comes to maternity care, there should be no red moms or blue moms, red babies or blue babies— our goal must always be healthy moms, healthy babies, and a healthy future.”

The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the American Congress of Obstrecticians and Gynecologists and the Preeclampsia Foundation. Click here fora full list of the more than 40 organizations supporting this bill.

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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov