GOP lawmaker looks to address racial disparities in maternal mortality rates

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) says little has been done to address the alarming racial disparities in maternal deaths.

In an interview with Hill.TV’s new morning show “Rising,” Herrera Beutler noted that the U.S. has a higher maternal death rate than some developing countries.

“The U.S. right now is worse than Iran. They’re maternal death rate is lower than ours per hundred thousand births,” she said.

The risk of pregnancy-related deaths for African-American women is three to four times higher than for white women.

“For African-American women in New Jersey, the death rate was around 79 per hundred thousand births. On average nationwide, it’s around 40. For white women, it’s around 14 per hundred thousand,” said Herrera Beutler, who has introduced the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act. This bill is aimed at establishing state-based maternal mortality review committees to determine why women are dying from pregnancy-related deaths.

“We have over 130 co-sponsers that would put in place a maternal review committee. In every state, we would investigate every maternal death. It’s shocking to think in 21st century America, we don’t have the answers to this,” Herrera Beutler said.

Buetler has also cosponsored another bill called Ending Maternal Mortality Act with Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), which aims to reduce the amount of preventable maternal deaths.

The Washington Republican thinks more details are needed to better understand both direct and underlying causes that lead to pregnancy-related deaths.

“What I’ve found is it’s racial, it’s regional, it’s class, it’s gender — there are disparities throughout health care and depending on where you’re at, we find the answer, which is why we have to investigate each and every maternal death,” Herrera Beutler said.

Herrera Beutler has a personal connection to the issue.

She experienced complications with her first child while serving her second term in Congress. Herrera Beutler was the ninth lawmaker in history to have a baby while serving in Congress.

Herrera Beutler's daughter was born with a rare and typically fatal condition known as Potter syndrome, a condition the lawmaker said doctors told her at the time was “100 percent fatal.”

“I was about five months pregnant and they said ‘there’s no way this baby is going to live,’ " she said. "That changes your world. It gets your attention.”

After Herrera Beutler received saline injections into the womb, her daughter became the first child with Potter syndrome known to have survived.

 

UPDATE: This story was updated on June 19 at 12:24 p.m.