(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — The Pennsylvania governor signed a Senate Bill into law on Tuesday, ensuring improved access to timely data on maternal health and maternal mortality in the state.

Governor Josh Shapiro, along with Senator Judy Schwank, Representative Morgan Cephas, and members of the Women’s Health and Black Maternal Health caucuses, were in Harrisburg Tuesday afternoon to ceremonially sign Senate Bill 262 into law, which amends the 2018 Maternal Mortality Review Act to require the Department of Health (DOH) to annually publish severe maternal morbidity data using hospital discharge data obtained from the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

The announcement stated the goal is to protect women’s health and deliver more transparency into the causes of maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers who often have the highest mortality rates.

SB 262 builds on the $2.3 million investment in the 2023-2024 budget to study maternal mortality for the first time in Pennsylvania.

SB 262 requires DOH’s data to be included in the report submitted by Pennsylvania’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) to the General Assembly, healthcare providers and the public. It also requires the MMRC to distribute that report at least once a year instead of every three years.

“Improving maternal health is a top priority for my Administration, and today we celebrate taking a vital step forward to better protect moms and babies,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “Across the Commonwealth and throughout the country, rates of maternal mortality are rising, and for Black mothers, that risk is even greater regardless of their income or zip code. Even for the wealthiest Black mothers, their babies are twice as likely to die within the first year. We can’t accept that – and we won’t. To make a real difference for moms and families, we need more data to understand what’s happening here – and how we can help. I was proud to sign this bill into law and I applaud Senator Schwank and Representative Cephas’ leadership in bringing this
important legislation to my desk.”

Governor Shapiro signed SB 262 into law as Act 5 on July 5, 2023 after it passed both the House and Senate chambers unanimously. 

Watch below the ceremonial bill signing of SB 262 on Tuesday, Oct. 31:

“As an obstetric anesthesiologist and a former member of the MMRC, I welcome this news that Pennsylvanians will have more timely and robust data to address the worsening maternal morbidity and mortality crisis. Access to maternal health care is not equitable in Pennsylvania, with both urban and rural communities experiencing gaps, including in Philadelphia where Black women represent 43% of the births but account for 73% of the maternal deaths. This is unacceptable,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “Annual data on severe maternal morbidity and prevention recommendations will support the Administration’s ongoing work to reduce maternal mortality and complements DHS’ ongoing initiatives including expanding Medicaid coverage for a full year postpartum and improving access to doula care.”

Pennsylvania joins nearly 40 other states, along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, in passing such requirements on maternal mortality data. There is no additional cost associated with implementing SB 262.