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Thiele maternal mortality bill awaits Cuomo signature

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A bill to ensure equal access to quality health care for women has passed the New York State Legislature and is awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. The aim of the legislation is to reduce maternal mortality, said Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who co-sponsored the bill.

It would establish a Maternal Mortality Review Board and a Maternal Mortality Advisory Board to closely examine maternal deaths in the state and develop strategies for improving health outcomes of pregnant women and new mothers.

Maternal deaths have risen steadily in the United States since 1987, from 7.2 per 100,000 live births to 18 in 2014. In New York, the rates are even worse, Mr. Thiele said.  According to a report released by the New York State Taskforce on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes, in 2016, New York State ranked 30th in the nation for its maternal mortality rate, with clear racial disparities. The number of reported maternal mortalities in New York increased over time from 15.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2001-2003 to 19.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014-2016.

The legislation would help combat these staggering statistics by establishing the Maternal Mortality Review Board and the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Advisory Council. Made up of health professionals and experts, the board would carefully review maternal deaths in the state, make policy recommendations and advise the best practices to reduce and prevent maternal mortality.

“The Maternal Mortality Review Board would allow our medical community to see what and where the problems are so more mothers don’t lose their lives,” Mr. Thiele said.  

The maternal mortality rates are significantly higher among black women who are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in New York State, according to the study.

The inequality begins early in a black woman’s pregnancy, with her legitimate concerns and symptoms more likely to be ignored and the health care system less likely to offer her support or empowerment, the report said.

“This injustice cannot be allowed to continue. Every single woman in New York needs to know they’re getting the best possible medical care when they’re on their journey to motherhood,” Mr. Thiele said.

“We live in one of the most advanced nations on earth, yet U.S. women are more likely to die during pregnancy or from childbirth than anywhere else in the developed world,” he said. “We need to do more to prevent maternal deaths, and we need to do it now.”

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