Merkley, Cassidy Bill to Address Silent Stillbirth Crisis Unanimously Passes the Senate

Washington, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation by Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Louisiana’s U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. has unanimously passed the Senate. The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act will help bring down the shockingly high rate of stillbirths and maternal mortality in the United States by opening up more federal resources for stillbirth prevention activities and research.

One out of 75 U.S. births tragically result in stillbirths, accounting for nearly 21,000 stillbirths a year—more stillbirths annually than the number of babies who pass during the first year of life. 

“Stillbirth upends the lives of individuals and families in communities all across the United States—devastating parents and families,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “Nearly 1 in 4 stillbirths are potentially preventable, and it is disturbing that the rate of stillbirth is considerably higher in Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women. With the tremendous advances we’ve made in modern medicine, we have the capability to do much more, and passing this bill is an important first step in that effort.”

“This is a great step towards saving the lives of babies and mothers,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Every life is precious, and today, the Senate affirmed that.”

Recent reports and data suggest that further reduction in the incidence of stillbirth is possible, highlighting that nearly 25% of stillbirths are potentially preventable. Alarmingly, in our nation, approximately 21,000 babies are stillborn every year. This is greater than the number of babies that die during the first year of life and more than ten times the number of babies that die annually due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Data comparing the United States to other countries shows that our nation can and must do more to prevent stillbirth. In the last two decades, the stillbirth rate in the United States declined by a negligible 0.4 percent, and, in a report published by the World Health Organization comparing progress in improving stillbirth rates, the United States ranked 183 out of 195 countries.

The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2023 amends Title V, the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant of the Social Security Act, to clarify that stillbirth prevention activities and research are an allowable use of funds. This clarification will support stillbirth prevention activities, thereby helping to save the lives of mothers and babies.

In addition to Senators Merkley and Cassidy the Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act is cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Jim Risch (R-ID), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rick Scott (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act is endorsed by Healthy Birth Day, 1st Breath, Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health (formerly 2020 Mom), 2 Degrees Foundation, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), March of Dimes, Measure the Placenta, Mom Congress, PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy, “Reproductive and Placental Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Yale University School of Medicine”, Return to Zero: H.O.P.E., Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Every Mother Counts, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), Start Healing Together, M.E.N.D. (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death), Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI), American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), What to Expect Project, Postpartum Support International, Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) Foundation, National Education Association (NEA), Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH), Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, SUDC Foundation, and RH Impact.

“We are deeply grateful to Senators Merkley and Cassidy for their leadership on the stillbirth crisis. Lives will be saved with this critical legislation, and we are extremely grateful to the entire senate for their unanimous consent,” said Healthy Birth Day Inc CEO Emily Price.

Senate bill text can be found here.

The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2023 must next be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives so that it can be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.