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Kansas bills would require investigations into maternal deaths

Kansas capitol
Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 15:04:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One Kansas City metro woman has joined forces with Kansas lawmakers to push for new legislation that would better track outcomes for minority mothers and their children.

Sapphire Garcia-Lies, whose daughter Ella died in utero and was stillborn, said concerns about her daughter not moving much near the end of her pregnancy were downplayed by medical professionals.

“If they had caught that in time when she was still moving some then I think that she probably could’ve been saved,” Garcia-Lies said.

Two bills were recently introduced in the Kansas House and Senate, thanks, in part, to Gracia-Lies who founded the Wichita Birth Justice Society, along with former Rep. Melody McCray-Miller.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about it, the death rate,” McCray-Miller said. “But that’s exactly what it is, it’s a death rate. And we are just trying our best to reduce it and ultimately have a go away.”

RELATED: Maternal, infant mortality rates higher among Black women

If passed, H.B. 2108 would required the state to investigate all maternal deaths to see if racial bias or discrimination played a role. That data would be made available to the public, and an outside committee that includes women of color would help review the findings. S.B. 42 also calls for investigations into maternal deaths.

Garcia-Lies said she wondered if her race caused her doctor to disregard her concerns. In the years since her daughter’s death, she has become a doula -- a professional labor support person -- to help advocate for women of color and their babies.

She joins McCray-Miller and other advocates, including the Wichita Birth Justice Society, in their sense of optimism these bills will pass.