The Lead

‘This is only a start’: Shapiro, lawmakers celebrate signing of maternal mortality bill

By: - October 31, 2023 4:02 pm

Rep. Morgan Cephas (l, in black,) Rep. La’Tasha Mayes (in hat) and Sen. Judy Schwank (r) look on as Gov. Josh Shapiro signs Act 5 to make maternal mortality and morbidity a reportable event in Pennsylvania on Oct. 31, 2023 (Commonwealth Media Service photo).

State lawmakers and members of the Shapiro administration gathered in the state Capitol on Tuesday to celebrate the ceremonial signing of Act 5 — a bill that makes maternal mortality and morbidity a reportable event in Pennsylvania.

The act — formerly known as Senate Bill 262 — was introduced by state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and requires Pennsylvania’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee to share each reportable maternal mortality and morbidity event with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

“Without regular reporting and data documenting cases of maternal morbidity in the Commonwealth, we don’t know the scale of the problem or the critical indicators,” Schwank said, adding that without reporting and data “it’s much more difficult to craft effective policy addressing this crisis.” 

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed the bill into law on July 5, and said the legislation would help Pennsylvania “chart an informed path forward.”

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State Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) an advocate for maternal health care, said the signing of Act 5 will help the Department of Health improve outcomes and better understand the issue of maternal mortality. 

“As much progress as we made, we know that we are not out of the woods with this issue,” Cephas said. “I will forever know that the passage of this bill will not save the life of those that we have already lost.”

Shapiro thanked the Women’s Health Caucus as well as Rep. Cephas and Sen. Schwank for their work on the issue, calling it an “important day” for the Commonwealth. 

“We have heard the calls of Representative Cephas and other leaders in this area that we have to make sure we make advancements here,” Shapiro said on Tuesday. “Our administration is committed to doing this important work alongside all of these fine leaders here today and well in the future.”

The 2023-24 state budget allocated $2.3 million in state funds for maternal health programming initiatives and for a study on maternal mortality prevention strategies. 

“We view this as an important step, but by no means the end of the process,” Shapiro said.

Schwank echoed Shapiro, saying that while she is happy to see the legislation signed into law, “this is only a start.”

Earlier this month, state lawmakers announced the formation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus as another avenue to address the maternal mortality crisis in Pennsylvania.

Cephas thanked the newly formed caucus for its work and said its members, including state Reps. La’Tasha D. Mayes (D-Allegheny) and Gina Curry (D-Delaware) will be “laser-focused on building on the momentum of the work we’ve done to date and beginning to be the catalyst for the work we will be doing moving forward.” 

It’s with this collective work, that we’ve made a significant impact in reversing the trends of both maternal mortality and morbidity,” Cephas 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.