March of Dimes Welcomes Passage of PREEMIE Reauthorization Act

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380,000 U.S. babies are born premature each year

March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit fighting for health of moms and babies, today commended the House of Representatives for approving two critical bills that address the troubling high rates of preterm birth and maternal mortality in the United States. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 3029) renews the only federal law dedicated to preventing and treating preterm birth, while the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 (H.R. 1318), brings the nation one step closer to preventing death or serious health outcomes for pregnant women and new mothers.

In the United States, more than 380,000 babies are born premature each year and complications resulting from an early birth are the leading cause of death and disability among infants. S. 3029 advances federal research and promotes preterm birth prevention through proven interventions and community initiatives.

"In more than half the cases of preterm delivery, the underlying causes are unknown, making S. 3029 so important to families across our country," said March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart. "We commend Senators Lamar Alexander and Michael Bennet, as well as Representatives Anna Eshoo and Leonard Lance, for their strong leadership on this issue."

Pregnant women and new mothers in the U.S. are also facing a public health crisis. Each year, tragically more than 700 moms die due to pregnancy-related causes and an estimated 50,000 suffer life-threatening complications. H.R. 1318 will provide funding to states and tribes to establish and improve maternal mortality review committees. These committees include local experts on maternal, infant and public health who investigate cases of maternal death and develop recommendations to prevent them.

"Every death of a new mother is a tragedy. Our nation cannot prevent maternal mortality if we lack data about where and why it takes place," said Stewart. "With today's vote, we're now able to examine cases of maternal death, identify contributing factors and develop a path forward to save women's lives."

"We extend our thanks to Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler, Diana DeGette and Ryan Costello for championing H.R. 1318, as well as Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Shelley Moore Capito for spearheading the Senate companion bill," Stewart added.

As the next step in the legislative process, the PREEMIE Act will go to the president for his signature while the maternal mortality bill moves to Senate for consideration. March of Dimes urges senators to follow the House's lead and swiftly pass H.R. 1318.

Both bills are top legislative priorities for March of Dimes, which advocated for their passage through congressional hearings, meetings with lawmakers and a landmark digital advocacy campaign called #BlanketChange. Launched ahead of the midterm elections, the campaign urged elected officials to support specific maternal and child health priorities. March of Dimes also included a "blanket memorial" on the National Mall, where 700 receiving blankets were laid out to represent the 700 women who die from pregnancy-related causes each year.

Concurrently, March of Dimes released a report illustrating so-called "maternity care deserts" across the U.S. where it is difficult for millions of women to obtain health care services related to pregnancy and childbirth. The organization followed that up with a report on the country's preterm birth rate which showed that for a third year in a row, more babies were being born too sick and too soon.

Anabel Marquez