TRENTON — State lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a package of 14 bills aimed at solving a problem on the rise: New Jersey has one of the nation’s highest rates of maternal mortality.

The United Health Foundation, in its 2018 Health of Women and Children Report, said maternal mortality increased 2 percent over the previous two years to 38.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, ranking 45th among the states.

The national rate was 20.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. Among black women, New Jersey’s maternal mortality rate was the highest in the nation, at 102.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.

“Hopefully in due course, we will turn the tide on these tragic numbers that leave far too many ill, far too many dead, and in my view represent a shame in our state that we need to address, a problem that we need to fix,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.

“Our society goes as our women and our children go, and we need to do a better job than we have been doing here to date,” Conaway said.

“This is just the beginning,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester, chairwoman of the Assembly Women and Children Committee. “We have to do more, we need to do more in the state of New Jersey, so let’s continue the conversation.”

The package of bills includes bills AR219, A1662 and bills A4930 through A4941 and are a mix of awareness, education, evaluation protocols and Medicaid coverage.

Carolyn DeBoer, director of corporate planning for the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, said the attention of the Legislature is welcome.

“The state of New Jersey’s care of women and children is in crisis,” DeBoer said. “The contributors are many and extend beyond the health care system to issues related to social determinants of health, systemic racism, paid maternity and family leave, the corrosive effects of stress on health, long-term impact of adverse childhood experiences and many other factors.”

First lady Tammy Murphy and four Cabinet members will make an announcement Wednesday morning in Camden regarding the state’s commitment to promoting maternal health and reducing disparities in birth outcomes, specifically black infant mortality.

Last August, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law requiring the state Department of Health to compile an annual New Jersey Report Card of Hospital Maternity Care, including the number of vaginal and cesarean deliveries performed at each hospital and the rates of complications experienced by patients.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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