Lawmakers in Texas decided not to take any significant steps to address the state’s abnormally high rate of pregnancy-related deaths just months after a study discovered it to be the highest rate in the United States and the developed world. The issue won’t be handled again until their next legislative session in 2019, unless lawmakers choose not to take any action once again.

The report, which appeared in the September issue of the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal, revealed that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. increased between 2000 and 2014 although the rest of the world successfully reduced its rate.

In Texas alone, the estimated number of pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 births increased from 18.8 in 2000 to 23.8 in 2014, or a 27 percent difference. Between the four years, the researchers at the University of Maryland who conducted the study concluded that over 600 women died due to pregnancy-related issues.

In just two years, between 2010 and 2012, the state’s maternal mortality rate doubled. No other state demonstrated such a drastic increase.

The report claimed that the doubling of the rate within a two-year period was perplexing “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.”

Black mothers accounted for 11.4 percent of Texas births but 28.8 percent of pregnancy-related deaths during the span of the two years.

“The disparity in the rates for African-American women is incredibly important and not widely recognized,” Lisa Hollier, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said.

As the underlying reasons for the sudden doubling are uncertain, Hollier believes “the problem is complex and the increase is likely due to a multitude of factors.”

During the release of the report, reproductive health advocates blamed the rise on Republican-led budget cuts that reduced funds for reproductive healthcare clinics in Texas. In 2011, the legislature cut $73.6 million from the state’s $111.5 million family planning budget.

The drastic decrease in two-thirds of the budget forced over 80 family planning clinics to close throughout the state. Only half the amount of women received services from the remaining clinics once the shut downs went into effect.

Also during this time, Texas removed all Planned Parenthood clinics, which offered cancer screenings and contraception to over 130,000 women.

Researchers of the study believe efforts need to be made in order to advance the nation’s maternity care.

“There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the 4 million US women giving birth each year,” the authors said.

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