LISTEN: Georgia U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Sanford Bishop collaborated on the bill, called the “Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Act." GPB's Sarah Kallis has more.

Pregnant woman touching her belly

Two Georgia U.S. Representatives introduced a bipartisan bill to combat maternal and infant deaths.

Georgia U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) introduced a bipartisan bill to combat maternal mortality on Friday. 

The lawmakers collaborated on the bill, called the Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Act.

Maternal mortality disproportionately affects women of color and women living in rural areas. Carter said the bill is tailored to address vulnerable groups' needs.

“It works by coordinating and providing whole-person care, and that is having an outcome focused on community-based prevention efforts, trying to prevent stillbirth and really just expanding the maternal health workforce," he told GPB News in an interview Friday. "It also it also modernizes maternal health, telehealth," he said. 

The bill includes provisions for expanding the availability of pre- and post-natal care and giving guidelines to medical centers. It also sets up studies on Cesarean sections and racial disparities in C-section births.

Georgia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the nation. Carter said it is important for two lawmakers from Georgia to be sponsoring the bill. 

"I'm all for Georgia being a leader in the United States," he said. "But this is one area where we're a leader where I am not very proud of it. Georgia's got a high maternal mortality rate." 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 80% of pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided, and the number of pregnancy-related deaths appear to have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We're trending in the wrong direction here in the United States as well," Carter said, "Here we are spending $4.2 trillion every year in health care, and yet we've got an increase in in maternal mortality. I'm a father and a grandfather and a health care professional. And I believe we can do better and we must do better."

A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Carter said he expects both bills to have strong support.