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Access and Equity Are Top Priorities for Women’s Health Caucus in 2023–24 Session

Credit: iStock

by Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 1, 2023

Members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus gathered in the Capitol on Wednesday to outline their priorities for the 2023-24 legislative session.

With operating rules now in place in the Democratically controlled House, caucus members said that they plan to prioritize reproductive rights, address the maternal mortality crisis, and expand access and equity in health care. 

“We, as a society, and equally, as members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus, need to fight to ensure we are protecting reproductive justice, ending maternal mortality, and promoting health equity,” state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, said. 

The caucus’ co-chair, Rep. Gina Curry, D-Delaware, said there was an urgent need to address Pennsylvania’s maternal mortality rate, which is disproportionately high for women of color. 

“I want to bring forth today that we have to pay attention, we cannot be asleep where this is concerned. Black women are dying three times more than their counterparts giving birth,” Curry said. “We have to put legislation out there to protect doulas to protect Midwifery, and all of the services that protect women in these spaces.”

A 2022 report from the Pennsylvania Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which reviews all maternal deaths in the commonwealth, found that Pennsylvania had an overall pregnancy-associated mortality ratio (PAMR) of 82 deaths per 100,000 live births. Non-Hispanic Blacks had the highest PAMR of 163 per 100,000 live births.

“We know that these are issues that are happening across hospitals all over this nation, and we have to put an end to it,” Curry said. 

Curry connected Pennsylvania’s high maternal mortality to barriers to care, such as counties and regions with little or no reproductive health care providers.

A 2022 March of Dimes report found that six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties qualified as maternal health deserts, lacking hospitals providing obstetrics care, birth centers, OB/GYNs or midwives. 

“We’re a caucus that are going to look at all areas of women’s health,” Curry said.

In January, the Women’s Health Caucus and Legislative Black Caucus joined to create a subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color. 

The new subcommittee is chaired by freshman Rep. La’Tasha Mayes, D-Allegheny. 

“As elected officials in Pennsylvania, we believe that our platform champions for substantive issues for people across our Commonwealth,” Co-Chair Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, said. “With that, we invite all members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to take a look at our platform and consider joining the caucus.”

This story was written by Cassie Miller, a reporter at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.

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