Casten, Kelly Conduct First Non-Partisan Congressional Maternal Health Field Inquiry in Chicago

August 22, 2019
Press Release

Chicago, IL. – This week, U.S. Representatives Sean Casten (IL-06) and Robin Kelly (IL-02) convened a non-partisan Congressional Maternal Health Field Inquiry, in collaboration with Advocate Children’s Hospital, to shine an urgent light on the rising rate of American mothers dying from pregnancy and childbirth. The inquiry’s findings will contribute to larger federal reporting and fact-finding efforts to craft a national response to America’s shocking and growing maternal morality rate.

The current U.S. maternal mortality rate has doubled since the mid-1980s. Nationally, 700-900 American mothers lose their lives to pregnancy or birth-related complications each year; it is estimated that more than half of these deaths are preventable. Each year, nearly 100 Illinois moms will lose their lives; more than three-quarters of these deaths are deemed to be preventable. Nationwide, African American mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die than their white counterparts; in Illinois, that disparity climbs to six times more likely to die.     

On the dais, Representatives Casten and Kelly were joined by Illinois Senators Cristina Castro (SD-22) and Jacqueline Collins (SD-16), as well as, Illinois Representative Mary Flowers (HD-31).

Casten said, “As one of the most industrialized countries in the world and the leader in medical innovation, maternal mortality is far too common in our nation. Maternal deaths during pregnancy, delivery, and in the postpartum period have been on the rise. This must end. I applaud Congresswoman Kelly for spotlighting this issue with her field inquiry at Chicago’s Advocate Health, and I'm look forward to working with her and others on advancing the health of women.”

Kelly said, “This inquiry – the first in a national series – will take us a little further down the road to advancing legislation that will save mothers’ lives. Last year, I introduced the MOMMAs Act to protect mothers by establishing policies and practices to prevent maternal deaths. We’ve already lost too many mothers to this crisis; it’s incumbent upon us to honor their lives with action — action that will prevent another mother from needlessly dying or another family from being torn apart.”

The panel heard from highly qualified and well-respected experts, including:

  • Ann Borders, MD, MSc, MPH, Executive Director and Obstetric Lead, Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative and Clinical Associate Professor Maternal Fetal Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem;
  • Iveree Brown, Ounce of Prevention Fund;
  • Kirbi Range, Maternal and Child Health Manager, EverThrive IL;
  • Dara M. Basley, M.A., LCSW, ACCESS Maternal Child Health Program Manager and;
  • James Keller, M.D., Vice President of Medical Management, Maternal Fetal Medicine at Advocate Children's Hospital.

Additionally, Heidi House, a mother who nearly lost her life during childbirth, shared her story.