AUSTIN - The birth of a child is an exciting time; a day many people dream about. But for some in Texas, that dream becomes a nightmare.
"Texas has a crisis in maternal mortality," said Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) while speaking at a health care rally in June. "The rate doubled between 2010 and 2014 with more than 600 Texas women dying."
Howard, who is a registered nurse, pointed out that's more than any other state in the United States or industrialized country in the world.
The statistic was almost reality for State Representative Shawn Thierry (D-Houston).
"I almost lost my life during child birth four years ago," Thierry recalled.
"I had a very bad allergic reaction to the epidural and my heart started to race and I had to be put completely under. And when I woke up, my child had, was born," she added.
Back in 2013, Texas lawmakers created a task force to study maternal mortality. Howard said its top recommendation was to increase access to services through Medicaid because Medicaid covers half of all births in Texas.
"And whether it's causal or correlative, this rate increase took place following the state's withdrawal from the federal Medicaid women's health program with a resulting loss in providers," Howard added.
Instead of increasing funding, lawmakers passed a budget that spends $2 billion less on Medicaid this session. And a bill by Thierry to extend the existing task force was killed in the regular session during the Freedom Caucus' "Mother's Day Massacre". That's when the caucus killed more than 120 bills on the local and consent agenda just before Mother's Day.
A bill in the Senate by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) to extend the task force also failed to become law.
"To protect women in Texas, I'm calling on the legislature to complete their work and to pass legislation to address the maternal mortality rate in Texas," said Governor Greg Abbott as he announced what would be on the Special Session call.
Kolkhorst is planning to refile her bill and Thierry has filed a bill to not only extend the task force but also have them study socioeconomic factors of the women dying.
"We have an opportunity to pass some very, very meaningful legislation that will help save countless women's lives," Thierry said.
Abbott also wants lawmakers to pass a bill strengthening patient protections on Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNRs).
The authors of the bill, Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who Abbott asked to write the legislation, said currently, "secret or forced" DNRs can be put in a patient's chart. Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), who is carrying the legislation in the House, added he wants a law protecting Texans from having someone else make that decision for them.
The Special Session starts July 18.
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