Gov. Phil Murphy signed on Wednesday legislation (Assembly Bill 1862) to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee to annually review and report on rates and causes of maternal mortality and morbidity in New Jersey, and to recommend improvements in maternal care.
“Improving health outcomes for New Jersey’s mothers is a vital component of tackling the maternal and infant health crisis,” said Murphy in a statement.
“This legislation will allow us to take a comprehensive approach to analyzing data and finding solutions to address maternal mortality and morbidity in our state. I commend my partners in Legislature for working with me to build a stronger, fairer and healthier New Jersey,” the governor stated.
“New Jersey’s maternal mortality rates are alarming, and for women and infants of color the statistics are even more distressing,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Today’s bill signing is a critical step forward in combatting the maternal and infant health crisis. From examining data to determining economic and social factors that contribute to maternal mortality, we are working every angle to better serve New Jersey’s mothers, babies and families.”
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal said that the bill formally enshrines a critical group that helps “us learn from tragic maternal deaths across NJ.” Elnahal added: “Importantly, it also empowers us to convene stakeholders across government and the health care system to respond by improving the quality and safety of maternity care — with a particular focus on eliminating the shameful disparities in outcomes for black women. I applaud the governor and the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to breaking the back of institutional racism and its legacy on maternal-child health.”
Primary sponsors of the bill include Sens. Joseph Vitale, D-19th District; Teresa Ruiz, D-29th District; and Nellie Pou, D-35th District; and Assembly members Pamela Lampitt, D-6th District; Raj Mukherji D-33rd District; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37th District; and Shavonda Sumter, D-35th District.
“Race, ethnicity and socioeconomic standings should never influence the quality of maternal care a woman receives,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Ruiz in a statement. “Far too often we see the concerns of women of color fall on deaf ears, at times leading to catastrophic birth and post-partum complications. Tracking maternal care outcomes and continuously searching for ways to improve best practices will ensure that improving maternal mortality is an ongoing effort,” Ruiz said.
“Our maternal mortality rates are unacceptable by any standard, and action must be taken,” said Vitale. “But if we want to be sure we are taking the right action, we need to know we have the right information. Formalizing the review committee will not only help centralize the data, it will open avenues for greater federal funding. These two together will ensure that once we know the most effective way to help the mothers of New Jersey, we will also be able to afford to take the appropriate steps,” said Vitale.