Texas Lawmakers Failed to Address Rising Pregnancy-related Death Rate During Their Legislative Session

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that,
months after researchers published findings indicating Texas
has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the United
States and the developed word, Texas lawmakers failed
to take significant steps to address the issue before the end
of their legislative session. Now, lawmakers will have to wait
until 2019 to address the state’s skyrocketing
pregnancy-related maternal death rates, or, more likely, do
nothing about it again.

The recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of
Maryland, found that the state’s maternal mortality rate
doubled between 2010 and 2012. Nonetheless, Texas legislators
expressed a much more robust interest in drafting draconian
anti-abortion laws that also
prohibit donating fetal tissue to research.

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Republican state senator Lois Kolkhorst actually tried to get
something done, introducing a measure that would have extended
the end date of Texas’s maternal mortality task force from 2019
to 2023, and allowed researchers to continue to study the
specific causes of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas. The task
force was established in 2013 amidst growing concerns that the
pregnancy-related death rate was on the rise. But that measure
failed.

The task force has already found that Texas’s growing
pregnancy-related mortality rates disproportionately affect
black women, who make up 11 percent of births, but 28 percent
of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas.

Lawmakers also failed to pass a measure that would have
extended Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers for longer
periods after they’ve given birth. They did manage to pass a
bill that allows mothers to be screened for postpartum
depression a year after giving birth. But Lisa Hollier, the
chairwoman of the maternal mortality task force, told the
AP that this is hardly a victory. “I am concerned that
we had the opportunity for some improvements,” she said, “and
that opportunity may have passed us by.”

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