Women In State Senate Seek Solutions To Pregnancy-Related Deaths

Mar 18, 2019

Women in the Illinois Senate want to address a surge in maternal deaths related to childbirth.

The package of legislation comes after a 2018 study by the Illinois Department of Public Health deemed 73 percent of pregnancy-related deaths preventable. It also found Black women are six times more likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition than white women.

One proposal would require doctors and nurses to be trained about implicit racial bias.

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat from Olympia Fields, said subconscious attitudes affect the way healthcare providers treat mothers, especially those who are Black or Latino.

“This does not come down to just whether or not you have insurance, or whether or not you’re comfortable going into a hospital,” Hutchinson said. “There are all kinds of cultural things that happen in that interaction among healthcare providers and patients that impede the quality of care that you get.”

Another piece of legislation aims to address needs of mothers postpartum. It would create a pilot program to provide in-home nurse visits for new mothers to monitor complications up to 12 months after birth.

“We’ve done a great job focusing on the child,” said state Sen. Cristina Castro, a Democrat from Elgin. “But when it comes to the mothers, that’s kind of fallen behind.”

The legislation would also require insurance companies to cover necessary medical and mental health treatment for postpartum complications.

A third proposal calls for a study of medical care in home-births.

State Sen. Iris Martinez, a Democrat from Chicago, said there are fewer than 10 recognized nurse midwives in Illinois — and almost none downstate.

“Due to this scarcity, approximately 50 of babies born at home in Illinois are born with no skilled assistant, or with the assistance of underground community midwives who may or may not be licensed and credentialed,” Martinez said. “If a midwife is not licensed, they will not have access to lifesaving oxygen and anti-hemorrhage medication.”

Martinez said home-births have increased in recent years, often when hospitals are too far away or mothers can not afford the stay.

She said home-births can be just as safe as hospital deliveries with properly-trained midwives.

The legislation is Senate Bill 132, Senate Bill 1909 and Senate Joint Resolution 12.