(TRENTON) – The Assembly Women and Children Committee released a three-bill legislative package, along with a resolution, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shanique Speight and Gabriela Mosquera to combat the growing rate of maternal and infant mortality in New Jersey on Monday.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world, and is one of the only countries where maternal mortality is rising. In New Jersey, for every 100,000 live births there were 37.3 pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths. That is almost double the national average of 19.9.
The first bill (A-1862), sponsored by Lampitt, Mukherji and Vainieri Huttle, would establish a Commission dedicated to studying the causes and rates of maternal death in New Jersey.
Among the responsibilities of the Commission laid out in the bill would be to review and investigate maternal deaths, conduct witness interviews and hear testimonies on any material matter, consider public input and hold periodic public hearings, and to identify and promote the use of best practices in maternal care for all New Jersey residents.
“This bill will allow us to further understand why our mothers are dying at such a high rate, and how we can change that,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We owe it not only to our mothers, but to their partners and children to make New Jersey a leader in women’s health.”
A resolution (AR-113) sponsored by Lampitt and Mosquera urging the enactment of the federal Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2017, which would create similar Commissions in each state and distribute grants to states to establish and sustain these Commissions also cleared the Women and Children Committee.
The second bill (A-2366) is sponsored by Vainieri Huttle and Mukherji and supplements the first bill by requiring the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a state-wide Report Card of Hospital Maternity Care. The report card, which would be posted publicly onto the DOH website for each New Jersey hospital, would include the number of C-section deliveries performed and the rate of complications experienced by patients receiving maternity care for both C-section deliveries and vaginal deliveries.
Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said, “Information and knowledge are the only way to combat this often-forgotten tragedy. In order to tackle this problem head-on, we must first understand why and how this is a problem.”
“It is imperative that we figure out why New Jersey mothers are dying at an unprecedented rate for such an industrialized country,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Collecting and investigating the data will enable us to develop solutions to prevent further tragedy.”
As of March 2017, New Jersey had the fifth highest maternal mortality rate in the United States
The third bill of the package (A-3653), sponsored by Speight, focuses on infant mortality. It would require the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board to study racial and ethnic disparities that contribute to infant mortality. The multidisciplinary Board resides within the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, but operates independently, and reviews child fatalities and near fatalities to identify their causes, relationship to governmental support systems and methods of prevention.
This bill would have the board study certain socio-economic factors associated with race and ethnicity, and determine how they affect infant mortality. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, mortality rates are significantly higher for black infants than white infants, with the rate being at least 50 percent lower for white infants compared to black infants.
“Children are the future of this state, and of this country,” said Speight (D-Essex). “All children deserve to live out their lives, regardless of race or wealth, and this bill will help us to better understand how race and ethnicity affect infant mortality.”