Why are so many moms and babies dying in Texas? Why are so many moms and babies dying in Texas?
The Texas Legislature has returned to Austin for its special session, and now their results are a matter of life and death. While legislators... Why are so many moms and babies dying in Texas?

The Texas Legislature has returned to Austin for its special session, and now their results are a matter of life and death. While legislators are working on keeping state agencies in operation, continuing the discussion about the controversial “bathroom bill” and examining everything from local tree ordinances to public school finance, they will also, at Gov. Greg Abbott’s direction, examine why Texas is a disproportionately lethal place for moms, especially African-American moms.

The facts may surprise many Texans: Mothers in much of the developing world have lower maternal mortality rates than African-American moms in first-world Texas. Abbott is to be commended for including this examination of maternal mortality in his directive to the Texas Legislature’s special session, but the unexplained skyrocketing of maternal mortality is only part of the picture.

Parallel to the state’s conversation about maternal mortality lies an equally – if less discussed – disturbing trend. Just like African-American mothers, African-American infants are also dying in Texas at rates stunningly higher than Latino and Anglo infants. Last year, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission presented data to the Texas Legislature highlighting the racial disparities in infant mortality rates in Texas.

In 2013, the most recent year with available data, the commission reported to legislators that the infant mortality rate for African-American babies was twice as high as the state’s average. This means that African-American infants die at more than twice the combined rate of white, Latino and Asian-American infants in Texas.

And the trend line is worsening. There has been a dramatic increase in mortality among African-American infants since 2008. Texas has not always seen increasing infant mortality. In fact, in the years immediately preceding 2008, infant mortality among African-American babies in Texas was dropping steadily. In addition to the maternal mortality crisis, Texas also has a crisis in infant mortality.

During the regular session, legislators from all over Texas came together to address maternal mortality. Newly elected Representative Shawn Thierry of Harris County filed legislation to create a task force to reduce maternal mortality. Despite bipartisan support, her bill fell victim to the tumultuous last days of the regular legislative session and efforts from members of the self-appointed “Freedom Caucus” to squash the legislation. Fortunately, Abbott ignored the morally questionable logic of the Freedom Caucus and asked the Legislature to address maternal mortality during the special session.

The Texas Constitution clearly states that the Legislature can only discuss the items set forth by the governor for debate. Abbott and the Texas Legislature should thus include a discussion of infant mortality in its work on maternal mortality. Mothers and their infants are intrinsically linked in the real world. Legislators, parents, medical professionals, and others must work together to ensure that Texas reduces unnecessary death among moms and their babies. Please add your voice to those asking that the Texas Legislature address infant, as well as maternal mortality during this special session. Lives are at stake.

 Humphrey is a board member of CHILDREN AT RISK, a Texas-based research and advocacy group. Kimball is the director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at CHILDREN AT RISK.

Obinna Onyia

  • Iesha smith

    2017-08-10 #1 Author

    I think this is a good article on showing he first time mothers on how they could prevent them and their baby from getting our catching any virus or disease

    Reply

  • Iesha smith

    2017-08-10 #2 Author

    I think this is a good article on showing first time mothers him can prevent them and their baby from catching any disease or virus

    Reply

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