April 07, 2020

Wyden Releases New GAO Report Underscoring Need to Address Maternal Mortality Crisis

While the maternal mortality ratio decreased globally from 2000 to 2015, the ratio in the U.S. increased by three percent

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today joined a group of his colleagues to release a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on maternal mortality describing how maternal deaths are tracked, trends and disparities in mortality data, and how federal funding is being used to reduce pregnancy-related deaths.

Wyden and colleagues requested the report in 2018 to determine how effectively federal investments were being used and what improvements could be made to promote maternal health.

“More women die from pregnancy-related complications in the United States than anywhere in the developed world. Women of color fare even worse. And as this new GAO report shows, America’s maternity mortality rates are unfortunately on the rise,” Wyden said. “Women in Oregon and across the nation deserve better. I hope these startling numbers help serve as a long overdue alarm bell to the inequities deeply rooted in American health care.”

The GAO report found that according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 6,700 women died of causes related to or aggravated by their pregnancy between 2007 and 2016. Rates are far higher for some communities of color, with non-Hispanic black women more than three times as likely to die than non-Hispanic white women. The report also advances understanding of how the CDC monitors these deaths and which Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) programs are available and being used by states to address this crisis.

In continuation of his work to protect mothers and children, early this year Wyden began a bipartisan effort in the Finance Committee to identify policies to help reverse the trend of poor maternal mortality in the United States. Note that the deadline for submitted policy recommendations had been extended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining Wyden to release the report were U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Tom Carper, D-Del., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The full text of the report, “Maternal Mortality: Trends in Pregnancy-Related Deaths and Federal Efforts to Reduce Them,” is available here.