Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Louisiana’s U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. joined forces with U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson (R-IA-02) and Alma Adams (D-NC-12) to announce the introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2023. One out of 175 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 from all demographics across the United States—increasing the risk of maternal mortality and morbidity, and 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 we should be doing everything we can to prevent any American from experiencing stillbirth.”

“Every life is precious,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Increasing access to stillbirth prevention saves the lives of babies and mothers.”

For too long, stillbirth has been a silent crisis, but almost 21,000 babies are stillborn every year. According to a recent study, nearly 1 in 4 stillbirths are potentially preventable, and the United States is trailing other countries in making progress,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “That is why I am proud to introduce the bipartisan and bicameral Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2023with Senators Merkley and Cassidy, as well as Representative Hinson. All available data suggests we can make progress, as well as lower the disproportional rates of stillbirth among Black women and minority parents. The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act will address this injustice, so more babies experience a healthy birth and make it home with their families. These babies – and their mamas – can’t wait.”

“My heart breaks for any mother and family that has endured the tragedy of stillbirth, the unexpected loss of a baby after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy. Improving access to maternal care – especially in rural areas where women mayhave to drive an hour or more to see an OBGYN – is critical to preventing stillbirths and reducing maternal mortality,” said Congresswoman Hinson. “Our bipartisan bill will help ensure expecting moms can receive quality pre-natal care and save lives.”

Recent reports and data suggest that further reduction in the incidence of stillbirth is possible, highlighting that nearly 25% of stillbirths are potentially preventable. 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.

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 saving the lives of mothers and babies.

The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2023 was introduced in the Senate today, and companion legislation will be introduced in the House later this week.

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, RH Impact, and Rhia Ventures.

“This legislation is a call to action for health departments to implement stillbirth prevention programs in order to end the stillbirth crisis and save lives. There are proven stillbirth prevention efforts that WORK – and the return on your investment will be measured in the safe arrival of thousands of babies and improved outcomes for America’s moms,” said Healthy Birth Day, Inc. CEO Emily Price.

“Stillbirth prevention is of great concern to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and its members across the country,” said Verda J. Hicks, MD, president of ACOG. “While the risk factors for stillbirth are discussed with patients as a part of standard, evidenced-based maternity care, a significant number of stillbirths remain unexplained. It is imperative that we understand the specific causes of stillbirth so that clinicians are able to develop appropriate assessments and interventions. The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act will make it possible to conduct more research and attain better quality data to not only understand the causes but the racial and ethnic inequities that exist. ACOG is pleased to endorse this important legislation as part of its longstanding efforts to achieve the goal of preventing stillbirth and applauds the leadership of Senators Merkley and Cassidy and Representatives Hinson and Adams for remaining committed to getting it signed into law.”

“March of Dimes applauds Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), along with Representatives Ashley Hinson (R-IA) and Alma Adams (D-NC), for their leadership in sponsoring the Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act. Tragically, more than 21,000 babies are stillborn each year. While women of all ages and demographic backgrounds are impacted, there are longstanding and persistent racial, ethnic, age, and educational disparities, especially among Black and Native American mothers. In addition, stillbirth increases the risk of maternal mortality and morbidity and impacts the overall health and well-being of the whole family. This legislation would strengthen and enhance the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, which provides critical support to mothers and infants. To save more babies, we must focus our attention on strong and impactful prevention programs that will be implemented through this legislation,” said Stacey Brayboy, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs, March of Dimes.

“Every expecting mom imagines the moment she’ll hold her freshly birthed newborn in her arms for the very first time — those sweet skin-to-skin snuggles just the beginning of a lifetime of loving and nurturing. No mom — or dad — imagines their baby being born still, leaving their arms empty, their hearts broken, their lives forever shattered. Yet this is the unimaginable nightmare that becomes a reality for thousands of parents each year in the U.S., Every single loss of a baby, like the loss of a mom, is unthinkable. Yet those that are preventable, as they are too often in this country, should be considered unacceptable. It’s time to stop accepting them and to enact legislation that protects our moms and the babies they love, especially our most vulnerable Black and Brown moms and babies. So many of the solutions to ending preventable stillbirths are simple and inexpensive to implement, and so many align closely with measures that can help end preventable maternal death. That’s why the What to Expect Project and I are so proud to endorse the bipartisan Maternal and Child Heath Stillbirth Prevention Act. We thank Senators Merkley and Cassidy and Representatives Hinson and Adams for their passionate commitment to healthy beginnings and healthy futures,” said Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and founder of the What to Expect Project.

“Stillbirths profoundly affect mothers, families, and their communities. The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act will provide additional avenues to facilitate ongoing prevention activities throughout the reproductive continuum to support maternal health and improve pregnancy outcomes,” said Dr. Shawana Moore, DNP, WHNP-BC, President of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH).  “NPWH is advocating for policies that increase investment in all aspects of maternal healthcare, from strengthening the perinatal workforce (including WHNPs) to tools like telehealth and community programs that meet patients where they are. As maternity care providers, WHNP-BCs care for uncomplicated and complex conditions during pregnancy and postpartum. NPWH is committed to collaborating with our public health colleagues to support optimal pregnancy outcomes for mothers and babies.”

“The Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color (PMHA-POC), a program of Postpartum Support International, enthusiastically supports The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act. The PMHA-POC recognizes the alarmingly high rates of infant mortality in the United States. We also recognize maternal mortality rates amongst African-descent birthing people, regardless of socio-economic status, are at least three times higher than that of white birthing people in this country. This dual phenomenon is indicative of both a public health crisis for infants and birthing people of color, and an opportunity for our legislature to provide resources to help stem the rising tide of infant and maternal mortality in this nation. This bill will provide the resources, support and access to care birthing people in underserved communities need in order to reverse these trends and help these communities, and the children born into them, thrive,” said Andrea Clark Horton, Director, PMHA-POC, Postpartum Support International.

“Stillbirth is a heartbreaking tragedy that we should prevent whenever possible. It also befalls women of color more frequently than White women and presents yet another healthcare burden to disadvantaged groups. SRI supports any and all efforts to reduce this rare but devastating problem,” said Stephen Matthews, PhD, SRI President, University of Toronto and Nanette Santoro, MD, SRI Past President, University of Colorado.

“Postpartum Support International (PSI) supports this legislation. The importance of having access to adequate healthcare during pregnancy for stillbirth prevention cannot be overstated. Maternal health, pregnancy loss, and resulting maternal mortality and maternal mental health are inextricably linked, more so for Black mothers. Therefore, it is imperative to move forward with this bill to provide increased research, resources and to protect the well-being and lives of mothers and babies,” said Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., PMH-C, PSI Board Chair.

“The Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act has the potential to bring about life saving changes in maternal health care. My son was 1 in 21,000 annual stillbirths and I am one of those 21,000 mothers, annually, who will forever have to live with the rippling of that loss which manages to touch every part of your life. These measures can not only save lives, but save families,” said Vanita Williams, LSW, State Liaison, Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation.

“Stillbirth must be brought out of the shadows.  We need to name stillbirth, research stillbirth, and implement measures to end preventable stillbirth.  This bill will help do all of those things.  Pass this now so that more families can make it home safe together after birth,” said Ann O’Neill, Director, Measure the Placenta.

“It’s time for stillbirth to come out of the shadows, and this no-cost legislative change is a huge step in the right direction. More children (up to age 14) are born still in the U.S. each year than die from prematurity , SIDS, car accidents, drowning, guns, fire, poison, flu, and listeria COMBINED. Families are warned about all those potentially preventable risks, but not stillbirth, even though they are hundreds or thousands times more likely to lose a child to a preventable stillbirth. Parents cannot be expected to protect their children against a risk they don’t even know exists – that simply isn’t fair. We must empower families and their healthcare providers to recognize warning signs of stillbirth and take proactive steps to reduce those risks. The Stillbirth Prevention Act will make that a reality for tens of thousands of families across the country,” – PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy.

Senate bill text can be found here.