House OKs bills ex­tend­ing life of ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity panel,

House gives pre­lim­i­nary OKs to bills for keep­ing state task force on job.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Johnathan Sil­ver jsil­ver@states­man.com

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.

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL /AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

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