Maternal Health Caucus looks to decrease number of dying mothers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- A State Representative from Indianapolis is starting a Maternal Health Caucus.

It’s in response to shocking statistics ranking Indiana similar to Iraq and Vietnam when it comes to the number of dying mothers.

“We have the third-highest mortality rate in the nation," said State Rep. Vanessa Summers. “The Indiana General Assembly is aware. And we are going to work very hard from here on out to make sure that women are safe giving childbirth."

The Maternal Health Caucus is designed to raise awareness, collect data, create a task force and develop a state postpartum plan for mothers.

“I’d like to develop some legislation and laws to address safe protocols I’d also like to deal with culture competency in the hospitals, they don’t believe that African American women have pain, they don’t think that we are sick,” said Summers.

State Rep. Rita Fleming said it's a problem for every woman in the state.

"But particularly for black women,” said Fleming.

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In Indiana, about 41 white women die per every 100 thousand births. For black women, that number is 53.

“We need to start taking it even more seriously, we need to not only be looking at the after-effects but let’s start looking at making, for example, birth control more accessible. And I had a bill to address that that sadly wasn’t heard,” said Fleming.

But a bill is moving its way through the Senate that would give pregnant women and new mothers more accommodations in the workplace.

State Rep. Rita Fleming says she supports it. Despite opposition saying it may inspire more lawsuits and hardship on small companies.

“These are very short-lived problems when you compare the longevity of a woman and her value in the workplace,” said Fleming.

Summers agrees this legislation is a step in the right direction.

“Anything that we haven’t done up until this point, is good," said Summers. "And there’s a whole lot for women and pregnant women that we have not done in the state of Indiana.”

The pregnancy accommodations bill will be up for second reading on Monday.

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