Too many American families know of or have been touched personally by the devastating loss of an infant or mom during childbirth. It’s both tragic, and an area of tremendous opportunity especially as so many of these deaths are preventable. I believe every single individual deserves the chance to live his or her life to their full potential. I also believe Congress is poised to take action that will save significant numbers of lives in these areas.
As a mom of three young children, I helped found the bipartisan Maternity Care Caucus the first of its kind in Congress. Our goal is to improve the health and well-being of moms and babies across the country.
Given that focus, we could not ignore that each year in the United States, more than 20,000 babies are stillborn. In fact, the U.S. has one of the worst rates of stillbirth in the developed world, ranking 25th among 49 high-income countries. In that same vein, women across the country face staggering rates of maternal mortality; 700-900 women in America die of pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths. Our caucus had to take action.
One recent legislative solution we’ve worked on is the Stillbirth Health Improvement and Education Act or more simply SHINE for Autumn Act.
This bill takes a multi-pronged approach in reducing the rate of stillbirth in our country. It makes sure state and federal health departments have the tools needed to get an accurate picture of why stillbirths are happening a vital step toward prevention. Importantly, it also increases education and awareness surrounding this complicated issue.
Autumn Joy who is the bill’s namesake was stillborn in July of 2011. Her tragic death greatly impacted her family and propelled her mother, Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, to help others through stillbirth advocacy.
With the support of Debbie and my colleagues who championed the legislation, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Kathy Castor (D-FL), we were able to earn a unanimous stamp of approval in December 2021, from the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill now awaits action in the U.S. Senate.
This is progress, but is only a first step in the effort to help lower the stillbirth rate in America to help thousands of babies live and thrive.
Another notable achievement I’m proud to be part of is saving the lives of more mothers who face complications during childbirth. In 2018, we sent to President Trump’s desk the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act landmark legislation that represented the first law to reverse our nation’s maternal death crisis. This bill put federal resources and support behind state-level Maternal Mortality Review Committees, finally giving us the tools to understand at a community-by-community level why mothers are dying and help lead to research and, ultimately, preventions.
As a follow-up, we’re working to advance two other pieces of legislation that will expand affordable, high-quality maternal care to mothers across the country.
The Midwives for MOMS Act we’ve introduced expands educational opportunities for midwives to give moms increased access to quality maternal care. Research has consistently shown that midwives provide safe and cost-effective care, but compared to many other developed nations, they are vastly underused as providers. This bill takes that crucial step of investing in midwifery education to increase the availability and affordability of maternal care across our nation.
Another bipartisan solution we’re pushing for is the BABIES Act, which expands access to freestanding birth centers, effectively providing moms and babies critical access to the care they need and deserve.
Again, Congress needs to do more for our nation’s moms, babies, and families but you have a role to play, too. If you’re one of the thousands who have been impacted by these health care issues, please make your voice heard. Contact your federal representatives and urge them to support the legislation I’ve listed above to help save the lives of more infants and mothers.
Congress can still function the way our founding fathers intended. We are responsive to the people we represent. However, federal lawmakers need to know and hear from folks living back home who want us to make these issues a priority. Working together, we can advance important solutions that help more people live their lives to the fullest.
• U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington Republican, was first elected to Congress at the age of 31 to represent the state’s 3rd District. She is the first Hispanic in history to represent Washington State at the federal level. Since her election, both Democrat and Republican presidents have signed her legislation into law, helping her earn the ranking of Washington State’s most effective Member of Congress.