To the CA Department of Health, the CA State Legislature, and the U.S. Congress:
More U.S. women are dying from pregnancy or childbirth complications today than in recent history. A report published in the September issue of the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that from 2000 to 2014, the maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, D.C. increased 27%, from close to 19 deaths per 100,000 live births to close to 24 deaths per 100,000 live births. These rates also reveal troubling racial disparities. In the past five decades, Black women have consistently experienced an almost fourfold greater risk of death from pregnancy complications than White women. This increased risk is independent of age, parity, or education. The CA Department of Public Health itself found that the mortality rate for Black women was 46 deaths for every 100,000 live births from 2006 to 2008, while the rates for Asian, White and Hispanic women in the same period ranged from 9 to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births.
We saw these tragic statistics come to life in the preventable death of Kira Dixon Johnson. Kyira Johnson passed away on April 12, 2016 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA. According to the autopsy performed, Kyira’s cause of death was “due to hemorrhagic shock due to acute hemoperitoneum.” She bled internally for 10 hours before she got the care she needed, but by then it was too late.
Women in the United States are dying from pregnancy-related complications at a higher rate than women in 47 other countries. This alarming fact must be addressed; pregnancy must become safe. In March 2017, a bipartisan group of members of Congress introduced the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 to support states in identifying the root causes of maternal death and severe morbidity.
While California is the only state that has not seen the rate of maternal deaths increase, racial disparities still exist and we can do better to save the lives of mothers in California.
We are asking that as a legislator, you stand with the family of Kyira and mothers and families in your state by signing stronger maternal health protocols and recommendations into law. Currently there are recommendations in place for California hospitals but they are not mandatory by law. This needs to change if hospitals truly want to reduce racial disparities and support healthy births for all.
We call for:
- Cosponsorship and support of H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017.
- Universal maternal risk screenings in collaboration with providers and advocates
- Requiring patient safety bundles at birthing sites in every hospital throughout the state.
- Requiring all hospitals providing maternity services to complete a set of educational activities related to obstetric hemorrhage.
We also stand with the family of Kyira Dixon Johnson in calling for an investigation of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA for her death. One preventable death is too many, and negligence at hospitals leads to a dangerous road for birthing mothers.
We urge you to stand with your constituents and California mothers to continue leading and elevating the way for better maternal health outcomes!