A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky lawmakers Scott, Wiederstein pre-file bill aimed at addressing maternal deaths

Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

State legislators have pre-filed a bill aimed at addressing racial bias in health care that contributes to Kentucky women dying during or following childbirth.

Co-sponsored by Reps. Attica Scott of Louisville and Rob Wiederstein of Henderson, both Democrats, Bill Request 88 would create local maternal fatality review teams, require implicit bias training for perinatal health care providers, and offer Medicaid reimbursement for the services of a qualified doula.

Around 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

Scott says communities are only as healthy as their mothers and babies.

“The maternal mortality rate in Kentucky is 22.9 deaths per 100,000 births,” she points out. “Those kind of statistics drove me to want to do something to improve maternal health outcomes and reduce the infant mortality rate here in the Commonwealth.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it estimates more than 60% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.

Scott says maternal mortality rates are three times higher for pregnant women of color and nearly four times higher for pregnant African-Americans, compared with white women.

She adds that beginning evidence-based implicit bias trainings could help close that gap.

“And mandating implicit bias training is a way for us to say, ‘Let’s make sure that we’re focusing on health equity for everyone across Kentucky, rather than allowing ourselves to get trapped in the disparities that exist in our commonwealth,'” she states.

The legislation also would call for the state Department for Public Health to closely track data on maternal deaths by implementing child and maternal fatality review teams.

“So that health care providers and those of us as legislators, can really focus on what are the pieces of policy that we can create that address health inequities,” Scott states.

The World Health Organization defines maternal mortality as the death of a woman
while pregnant or within roughly 40 days of giving birth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded this definition to include deaths occurring within one year of pregnancy.

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