House OKs bills extending life of maternal mortality panel,
House gives preliminary OKs to bills for keeping state task force on job.
The Texas House on Monday unanimously gave initial approval to four bills that would extend for six years the work of a state task force that studies the unusually high rate of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas and expand its membership.
The bills need one more vote for final approval.
House Bill 9, by state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, would keep the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force in operation through 2023. It also would add duties to the task force such as studying and reviewing “rates, or disparities in pregnancy-related deaths,” “health conditions and factors that disproportionately affect the most at-risk population,” and “best practices and programs operating in other states that have reduced rates of pregnancy-related deaths.” The task force also would compare pregnancy-related deaths based on mothers’ socioeconomic status. The Senate passed its version of the bill last week.
HB 10, by Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, would do much the same as Burkett’s bill and require the task force to “develop evidence-based best practice recommendations” for maintaining the health of mothers.
HB 11, by Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, would go beyond Burkett’s and Walle’s bills and require the task force to collect data on deaths and declines in health related to pregnancy. Thierry’s bill also specifically requires that the task force place a focus on African-American women whose deaths are tied to their pregnancies. A couple of recent studies have found that black women die at a higher rate that any other group of women.
HB 28, by Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso, would add two positions to the 15-member task force: a nurse specializing in labor delivery and a doctor who specializes in critical care.
Texas saw 35.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, compared with 23.8 for the rest of the country, excluding California and Texas, according to a report published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Thierry told colleagues that addressing pregnancy-related deaths was a personal mission.
“In November of 2012, I went into labor a month early. I was healthy. I did everything right. I don’t have a history of heart disease in my family. I’m not diabetic. I ate well. I exercised,” she said on the House floor. “But nevertheless, it happened. While I was in the labor delivery room, I felt something was terribly wrong.”
Thierry said her heart began to race and then she felt excruciating pain.
“My chest, my heart feels like it’s about to beat right out of me,” she recalled telling a nurse. “I tried to save myself, and I said, ‘Put me under,’ because I felt if I stayed awake another moment that there is no way I would survive. I was in too much pain.”
Thierry said she does not recall giving birth but learned that her daughter was delivered via cesarean section. She later returned to the hospital and consulted her doctor about maintaining her health. She said there are thousands of women in Texas who don’t know that they’re at risk of dying because of their pregnancy and that the task force’s work helps the public better understand why Texas is one of the most dangerous places in the country to give birth.
Thierry dedicated her bill — also known as the Texas Moms Matter Act — to the mothers in Texas who died giving birth or shortly after giving birth.
“No woman who chooses to bear life in Texas should ever do so in exchange for her own,” she said.
Expanding the maternal mortality task force is one of 20 agenda items for the summer’s special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott. When the House gives final approval to the bills, the maternal mortality task force will be the third special session priority passed by the House. The Senate has approved 18 of the 20 priorities.
Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, told of her own experience dealing with a childbirth that almost took her life. She dedicated her bill — also known as the Texas Moms Matter Act — to the mothers in Texas who died giving birth or shortly after giving birth.