Shapiro signs bill into law to provide better and timelier data on maternal mortality

01 November 2023- Today, Governor Josh Shapiro joined Senator Judy Schwank, Representative Morgan Cephas, and lawmakers from the Black Maternal Health Caucus and Women’s Health Caucus for a ceremonial signing of Senator Schwank’s Senate Bill (SB) 262, a new Pennsylvania law that ensures improved access to timely data on maternal health and maternal mortality in Pennsylvania, allowing researchers, doctors, and policymakers to make more informed decisions about medical care for moms and families.

“Improving maternal health is a top priority for my Administration, and today we celebrate taking a vital step forward to better protect moms and babies,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “Across the Commonwealth and throughout the country, rates of maternal mortality are rising, and for Black mothers, that risk is even greater regardless of their income or zip code. Even for the wealthiest Black mothers, their babies are twice as likely to die within the first year. We can’t accept that – and we won’t. To make a real difference for moms and families, we need more data to understand what’s happening here – and how we can help. I was proud to sign this bill into law and I applaud Senator Schwank and Representative Cephas’ leadership in bringing this important legislation to my desk.”

Specifically, SB 262 amends the Maternal Mortality Review Act to require the Department of Health (DOH) to annually publish severe maternal morbidity data using hospital discharge data obtained from the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). Through rapid data collection and timely information, the goal is to protect women’s health and deliver more transparency into the causes of maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers who often have the highest mortality rates.

SB 262 further requires DOH’s data to be included in the report submitted by Pennsylvania’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) to the General Assembly, healthcare providers and the public. It also requires the MMRC to distribute that report at least once a year instead of every three years.

“Increasingly, Pennsylvania is recognizing alarming maternal morbidity and mortality rates. SB 262 is a significant step in the right direction, providing us with the essential data we need to gain a comprehensive understanding of maternal morbidity within the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Judy Schwank. “I’m thankful for the unanimous backing SB 262 received from both legislative chambers. I’m hopeful that more bills to improve maternal health outcomes in Pennsylvania will make their way to Gov. Shapiro’s desk during this session.”

“With the signing of this bill, we finally see severe maternal morbidity complications categorized in a way that will help us to better understand the issue and improve health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum individuals — moving us a step closer to saving lives in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Morgan Cephas. “I am grateful for everyone who got us to this day, and I look forward to working with my colleagues as a part of the newly formed Black Maternal Health Caucus to build on this moment as we work to advance a series of bills to address the issue.”