NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)– Mothers dying in childbirth or from other pregnancy-related causes should be studied by a task force, according to legislators who sent the bill on May 26 to GOP Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

“Texas moms have been dying from pregnancy-related causes at a rate far higher than the rest of the country and we have no idea why,” said Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), who sponsored the bill. “I am proud that my colleagues in the Legislature recognized the urgency of ensuring our mothers are healthy.”

Texas has a higher rate mortality that the national average rate of 21 per 100,000 live birth, Women’s eNews Editor-in-Chief Rita Henley Jensen wrote in a piece published earlier this year.

The maternal mortality rate for Texas has quadrupled over the last 15 years to 24.6 for every 100,000 live births in 2010, from 6.1 per 100,000 live births in 1996, according to a report last year from the state’s Department of Health Services.

These numbers have steadily increased over the past few decades in Texas, without any statewide investigation of causes, YourHoustonNews reports. The proposed task force will bring together the state’s leading experts to analyze the problem and offer recommendations.

“My legislation sends a strong message that Texas is serious about decreasing its maternal mortality rate and preventing poor health outcomes for countless other mothers,” said Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), author of the bill. “Ultimately, studying this issue will improve maternal health care services and save taxpayers millions of dollars otherwise spent on unnecessary health costs.”

Among multiple possible explanations for the high maternal mortality rate in Texas, Henley Jensen points out the anti-choice policy of the governor, who has led the fight to strip public funding for Planned Parenthood.

While Texan mothers face worse odds, Rita Henley-Jensen said the national statistics are bad overall. “It leaves the United States at the bottom of the list of developed nations; meaning, for instance, that more new mothers are dying here than in Croatia, ” says Henley Jensen.