THE BLOG
07/28/2014 06:18 pm ET | Updated Sep 27, 2014

Why Are Politicians Ignoring This Maternal Health Act?

Maternal deaths are on the rise in the United States and it seems like no one gives a damn.

The statistics are startling. Out of 180 countries, the United States ranks 60th in maternal deaths. This means 59 countries are better at keeping new mothers alive than we are. 86,000 women in the U.S. suffer complications during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Approximately 800 die.

Unfortunately, this is a subject I know a lot about. After the birth of my first child in 2010, I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage and almost died. I underwent a life-saving surgery and was later diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). One year later, I had a miscarriage in a yogurt shop in front of several people. Because there were very few resources for women who had similar birth and pregnancy complications, I began to write about my birth experience as a way to vent my feelings. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, it wasn't long before I received messages from women all over the world who have been impacted by birth trauma.

Sponsored by Rep. John Conyers [D-MI-13], H.R. 4216:The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014, is currently sitting before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Health. If passed, this bill will lead to major improvement in researching the causes of maternal deaths by awarding states grants to allow for such things as:

•Mandatory reporting of all pregnancy-related deaths by health care providers to the state department of health.
•The establishment of a state maternal mortality review committee on pregnancy-related deaths occurring within each state.
•Organizing a national workshop to identify definitions for severe maternal morbidity, a research plan, and possible data collection protocols to assist states in identifying and monitoring such cases.

As of today, H.R.4216 has no chance of being passed. Only twenty-one members of Congress are co-sponsoring it.

In the past few months, I have reached out to several politicians via social media and email asking them to lend their support to maternal health initiatives and received no responses. I recently reached out to my local Congressman, as well as my state Senator, Cory Booker, asking them to support H.R.4216. I received a response in my inbox from Senator Booker within a few hours. I was pleasantly surprised until I read the email in its entirety:

Dear Timoria:

Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I rely on the input of engaged New Jerseyans like you when making decisions, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

I draw inspiration from the people from across our state who take time out of their busy day to contact me. Some tell me about issues that need to be addressed, while others share stories about ways in which the work we do in Washington, DC, affects them. All, though, are going out of their way to give me and my team the information we need to do a better job as we fight for New Jersey's priorities. Thank you for being one of those voices.

I am honored to represent you in the United States Senate, and I hope you will continue to contact me and my staff about the issues that are important to you. There are many challenges before us, but I know that if we work together, we will not only succeed, but make our state and nation stronger.

For more information on my work in New Jersey and Washington, DC, please visit my website at booker.senate.gov.

Sincerely,
Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

I understand that our elected officials are busy people, bombarded by their constituents every day asking for help with various issues. But I was extremely disappointed to receive a letter addressed to me with no acknowledgement of The Maternal Health Accountability Act, my personal story or mention of maternal deaths in general. Receiving a generic letter like this with a "canned" response is a perfect example of why people are hesitant to voice their concerns to politicians, as none of the issues I wrote to Senator Booker about were addressed.

The goal of sharing my story is to bring some much needed awareness to this rising epidemic in our country. Maternal deaths and infant mortality are subjects that no one wants to talk about. I get it. Who wants to think about death during one of the happiest occasions they will ever experience in their lifetime? But the reality is that birth and pregnancy complications are not rare. Women and children die every day due to birth and pregnancy complications that often can be prevented with the right preparation, health education and access to resources.

The passing of the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 is necessary. It will give health professionals the support they need to research the various causes of maternal and infant mortality, prepare for postpartum emergencies and create resources for their patients.

The United States is the only developed country in which maternal deaths are rising. We can do better. We must do better. The lives of our mothers and children are depending on it.

To find out how to contact your local Congress person and support H.R.4216: The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 click here.

You can read more about Timoria on www.timoriamcqueen.com or follow her on Twitter.