House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates

The House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill aimed at reversing the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. in what supporters say is the strongest action yet that Congress has taken on the issue.

The bill from Reps. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerLatest funding bill to reopen the government fails in House On The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal MORE (R-Wash.) and Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Overnight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions MORE (D-Colo.) would support state-level efforts to track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths, and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring.

The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed countries, at a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.

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The bill allows the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to states to establish Maternal Mortality Review Committees that review every pregnancy-related or pregnancy-associated death.

Herrera Beutler and DeGette, in a joint statement, called the bill's House passage the “strongest step Congress has taken to date” to reverse the maternal mortality crisis.

“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,” they said. “We must improve our understanding of why mothers are dying in pregnancy, during childbirth and postpartum so we can then unleash every possible resource to protect women in this critical season of life."

The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said the committees are the “best way to understand why maternal mortality in the United States is increasing.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists President Lisa Hollier said the bill is a crucial step toward reversing the rising rate.

“No more pregnant and postpartum women should die from preventable causes,” she said.

It’s not clear when, or if, the Senate will vote on its companion bill, authored by outgoing Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks MORE (D-N.D.) and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing Republican senators skeptical of using national emergency for wall funding MORE (R-W.Va.), though it passed out of committee earlier this year.