Britt: High maternal mortality rate ‘American issue,’ not Democrat or Republican 

May 16, 2024

Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) encouraged elected officials to work across the aisle in tackling the United States’s high maternal mortality rate during a panel discussion Thursday on maternal mental health.  

“I think it is so important that we continue to talk about this in a bipartisan way because this is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is an American issue,” said Britt during The Hill’s Moms Matter: Closing the Maternal Mental Health Gap event, which was sponsored by Sage Therapeutics.  

The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among wealthy nations, with a sizeable portion of those deaths stemming from mental health conditions.  

The maternal mortality rate in 2019 was 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, and that rate steadily climbed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

By 2020, the maternal mortality rate in the country has reached 23.8 deaths per 100,000 eventually ballooning to a whopping 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021.  

Suicides and drug overdoses accounted for nearly a quarter of those deaths.

The maternal mortality rate dipped in 2022, according to recently released data from the CDC, but doctors don’t think the country is out of the woods yet, with mothers still dying at higher rates compared to those in other wealthy nations.  

“The United States has unacceptable rates of maternal mortality and morbidity,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who spoke along with Britt to The Hill’s contributing editor Kathleen Koch during the event. “We have to change that.” 

Britt used the Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act, a bill introduced by Hassan in April and co-sponsored by Britt, as an example of how Republicans and Democrats can come together to improve maternal health.  

The bill aims to help rural hospitals and doctors better prepare for obstetric emergencies and, if passed, would do so by training non-specialists on how to handle an emergency labor or delivery and create federal grants to help rural health care facilities buy equipment handle obstetric emergencies.  

Grants would also allow rural health care facilities the equipment they need to better train staff on how to handle obstetric emergencies.  

The bill would also launch a teleconsultation services pilot program that would allow rural facilities without an obstetrics team to contact one anywhere in the country via telehealth for medical consultations during emergencies.  

“Making sure that we are equipping these communities and these women with these resources … to be prepared during an emergency is critically important,” Britt said.