Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a top Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, spoke about the important role that access to contraception plays in preventing maternal deaths during a Health Subcommittee hearing Thursday titled, "Better Data and Better Outcomes: Reducing Maternal Mortality in the U.S."
"It's just shocking that, right here in the United States, women are dying from preventable pregnancy-related complications," Engel said at the hearing. "But that women are more likely to die from those complications here than in other parts of the developed world? And the fact, this risk is three-to-four times higher in black women than white women? That's shocking. It's a tragedy and it's an emergency."
Engel went on to ask witnesses Lynne Coslett-Charlton, MD, Pennsylvania District Legislative Chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsand Joia Crear Perry, MD, President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative about the role family planning can play in preventing maternal deaths.
"We know that we have looked at the states that have more supportive policies around family planning, also have better infant mortality rates and better maternal mortality rates. So, it's not a coincidence that when you invest in family planning, when you invest in infrastructure for moms and babies, you actually create a safety net where people can live longer and be healthier," Dr. Crear Perry said.
"It's been shown that women that are able to plan their pregnancies by spacing intervals between pregnancies and having access to adequate contraception that it improves safety--there's very clear data to show it improves outcomes in pregnancy and delivery also," Dr. Coslett-Charlton said.
Engel also underscored the impact that U.S. investments in family planning have had on a global scale. "A December report from the Guttmacher Institute estimated that, globally, and I quote, fully meeting the unmet need for modern contraception would result in estimated 76,000 fewer maternal deaths each year. That's 76,000," he reiterated.
A video of Engel's full remarks and questions is available here.