The D.C. Council recently passed a bill that would create a Maternal Mortality Review Committee. It would look into the high number of pregnancy-related deaths in the District. More importantly, it would try to come up with ways to prevent them.

The committee would be similar to the one that already reviews infant mortalities. Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen introduced the bill. It needs another vote by council before it moves forward.

A January report by Allen listed the alarming numbers in the city. The report called the maternal mortality rate in the District ‘nothing short of a maternal health crisis.’ The District’s mortality rate is often ranked the worst for maternal deaths when compared to other states.

In 2016, according to a report by America’s Health Rankings, in the United States, the maternal mortality rate was nearly 20 deaths per 100,000 live births. That’s compared to the District’s numbers which were double that amount, approximately 41 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.

Supporters say the committee needs to be established fast.

“Mothers and infants will continue to die from preventable causes in D.C. even as this committee gathers evidence. There is considerable research to indicate there are problems areas in the District,” said Julianne Weis, an expert in maternal child health.

The concern is even greater for low-income women and women of color. Access to proper health care is a direct correlation to these numbers, according to experts. The recent closings of two labor and delivery units in the city heightens that concern.