The Lead

Pa. lawmakers launch Black Maternal Health Caucus to combat ‘alarming’ maternal mortality rates

By: - October 19, 2023 2:58 pm
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Three state lawmakers announced this week the creation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus in an effort to find legislative solutions to Pennsylvania’s high rates of Black maternal mortality and morbidity. 

State Reps. La’Tasha D. Mayes (D-Allegheny), Gina Curry (D-Delaware), and Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) are all serving as Caucus co-chairs. 

Mayes, a former reproductive justice advocate, said that with the Caucus in place, the commonwealth can begin to “significantly reduce maternal mortality.”

A 2022 report from the Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which reviews all maternal deaths in the commonwealth, found that Pennsylvania had an overall pregnancy-associated mortality ratio (PAMR) of 82 deaths per 100,000 live births. Non-Hispanic Blacks had the highest PAMR of 163 per 100,000 live births.

In March, Gov. Josh Shapiro said that for the first time, Pennsylvania would invest in combating the maternal mortality crisis with state funding to conduct a study on maternal mortality prevention strategies.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mayes said the Caucus “will build upon Act 5 of 2023 and the 2023-24 state budget’s $2.3 million investment in Black maternal health” by introducing and supporting policy aimed at improving Black maternal health care and reducing the maternal mortality and morbidity rates. 

Legislators welcome funds for maternal health included in House-approved budget bill

One such bill — House Bill 1362 — would add “severe maternal morbidity” to the Department of Health’s list of reportable events. The bill is sponsored by Cephas, who also sponsored House Bill 1608 to allow for Medicaid coverage of doulas to improve maternal health outcomes. 

“We will continue to eradicate these unforgivable Black mortality and morbidity rates in our Commonwealth,” Mayes said.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.