Criticized over failing earlier to address skyrocketing pregnancy-related deaths, Texas lawmakers Monday pushed with renewed urgency efforts to examine why the state's maternal mortality rate is what researchers say is not only the highest in the U.S., but the developed world.
A University of Maryland-led study last year found that the state's maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012. The study offered no explanation for the reason, and despite proposals in the Texas Legislature earlier this year to look for answers, Republican infighting over other issues derailed those measures.
The failure to act disappointed both lawmakers and doctors, but they are now getting a second chance in a special 30-day legislative session ordered by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Four bills passed by the Republican-controlled House would continue and broaden the scope of a task force on state maternal mortality and morbidity.
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One of the bills was authored by Democratic state Rep. Shawn Thierry, who said she almost lost her life while giving birth to her daughter in 2012.
"Was I lucky? Was it because I had private health care?" Thierry said. "But I also know there are thousands of other mothers out there who didn't have what I had in that room. They could not fight for themselves."
She added: "How boastful can we feel when Texas is the most dangerous place to give birth?"
The Texas task force had found that black women make up 11 percent of births, but 28 percent of deaths. Thierry's bill would collect data on the most prevalent health conditions and factors that caused the death of black women and look at different income brackets.
Her original bill earlier this year was backed by major health organizations, including the American Heart Association. But it never fully passed after House conservatives -- who were upset over their own measures stalling -- used a procedural move to wipe out the legislative calendar.
The task force formed in 2013 to study and combat what state lawmakers already perceived as a rising maternal mortality rate. Then last summer, the University of Maryland study found that Texas had the highest maternal mortality rate in the U.S. The study also found that the U.S. rate was higher than all other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries reporting maternal mortality data, except for Mexico.