DC Council takes first vote to create Maternal Mortality Review Committee

Today, the DC Council, in its first vote, unanimously passed Councilmember Charles Allen’s bill to create a maternal mortality review committee that will work to examine why DC has one of the highest rates of death for women before, during, or in the year after child birth, and make policy recommendations based on those findings.

“Maternal mortality rates in the District indicate nothing short of a maternal health crisis. The District’s maternal mortality rate is far higher than in neighboring jurisdictions and the United States as a whole. And we don’t have consistent data to tell us why,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, who introduced the Maternal Mortality Review Committee Establishment Act of 2017 on Oct. 17.

The Committee would operate under the Chief Medical Examiner. Per 100,000 residents, the maternal mortality rate for Washington, DC is 40.9, far higher than the US average of 19.9 and or much higher than the second highest rate among developed nations, Great Britain at 9.2.

“If we want to put the right policies and priorities in place to prevent more deaths related to childbirth, we need to understand what’s happening to our mothers. Getting a maternal mortality review committee up and running is the first step to charting a path forward and saving women’s lives,” said Councilmember Allen.

Councilmember Allen worked closely with several groups who have advocated that the maternal mortality rate is alarmingly high and needs to be studied, including members of the DC Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). 

“Today, Washington, D.C. is setting an example for our Nation and other states by taking bold steps to reduce high rates of maternal mortality. Maternal health tells us a lot about our community’s health and, until today, has been critically absent in the District of Columbia’s efforts to improve the health and well-being of moms and families,” said Sara Imershein, MD, Vice Chair of ACOG DC. “With this legislation, we will better understand and act to solve causes of our maternal death rate, keeping women safe and families whole. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists applauds Councilmember Charles Allen for introducing the Maternal Mortality Review Committee Establishment Act of 2017 and for his continued dedication to women’s health.”

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