There is a maternal health crisis facing our country. Data shows that expectant moms in the United States face severe health problems, which have been worsening for years. The maternal mortality rate in the United States is by far the highest of any developed country, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. In 2019, 754 women in the United States died due to causes related to their pregnancy. But in 2020, that number rose by nearly 20%.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50,000 pregnancies in the United States face severe complications each year. This means there are more than 50,000 women whose health and lives could be at risk each year due to their pregnancies. The outcomes are even more dire for women of color Black maternal mortality is more than double the average rate. This should not be happening in the most developed nation in the world.
My state of Nevada has a maternal mortality rate higher than the national average, partly because of the lack of medical resources in rural communities and the medical provider shortage our state faces. But Nevada is not alone. In fact, over 7 million women across our country live in areas that don’t have any maternity care.
We must do more to address this crisis. Medical experts have signaled that many of these pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. We must take action on this issue — and my bipartisan bill is one of those solutions.
Last year, I introduced the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act with Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. We partnered together to address this urgent problem in a unique, forward-thinking way. One of the challenges driving the high maternal mortality rate is a lack of care options for expectant moms, especially in rural areas.
We know that better access to care leads to better outcomes, and one way to improve access is through the expanded use of telehealth, allowing women to seek some of their care remotely from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. However, a lack of reliable broadband services in many of our communities creates significant challenges to using telehealth. Gaining a better understanding of the areas across America with broadband service gaps and high rates of poor maternal health outcomes is also essential to addressing the problem.
Our bipartisan plan would map out these areas that need increased maternal care and better access to reliable high-speed internet, allowing us to target where investments in broadband and telemedicine can be most effective in improving maternal health outcomes. This legislation unanimously passed the United States Senate on March 2, and we are working to make sure it passes the House of Representatives and gets signed into law.
This is not a partisan issue. It makes no difference whether you are a Democrat or a Republican when it comes to maternal mortality. The information we obtain if this legislation is enacted will be critical in protecting the health of all women and improving access to both prenatal and postpartum maternity care.
By championing policies like this, we can combat the maternal health crisis and improve access to care for so many families. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Now is the time to act. I am fighting to make sure this bipartisan bill becomes law, so we can use this data to save moms’ lives across the country.
• Senator Jacky Rosen, Nevada Democrat, is a member of the Senate committees that oversee health care and broadband which include Armed Services; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and the Special Committee on Aging. She launched the Bipartisan Comprehensive Care Caucus her first year in the Senate.