COLUMBUS — State Reps. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Thomas West (D-Canton) introduced a bill Tuesday to address infant mortality through increased sexually transmitted disease screenings for expectant mothers.

The legislation would require health care professionals to test pregnant women for HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea at different points of the pregnancy.

“Women and babies in the U.S. are dying at higher rates than other industrialized nations, while Ohio continues trailing behind other states in health outcomes," West said in a prepared statement. "Although it seems we are beginning to reverse the overall infant mortality rate in Ohio, we must continue addressing deep racial disparities and all pieces of this complex issue head on so we may truly improve the lives of Ohio’s families.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that all pregnant women should be tested for STDs, including HIV.

"The results of an STD can be more serious, even life-threatening, for you and your baby if you become infected while pregnant," the CDC states.

Ohio's infant mortality rate among white babies has slowly dwindled statewide, but death rates for African-American infants have increased. The rate of black deaths is triple that of white infants.

Stark County saw an increase in infant mortality, climbing from nine deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016 to 9.5 in 2017, above the national average of 7.6. Akron has some ZIP codes with the highest rates of infant mortality in the state.

“As a mother and grandmother, I cannot even imagine the pain families go through when they lose an infant,” Galonski said in a prepared statement. “We need to do everything we can to ensure the health and well-being of our most vulnerable population. Infant mortality is a complicated issue with racial and socioeconomic hurdles to conquer. This bill is a good step toward ensuring that mothers and their babies are healthy, protected, and safe.”

West and Galonski introduced similar legislation last year, House Bill 613.

Last week, new Gov. Mike DeWine said he wants to triple a state-funded home visitation program targeted at reducing infant mortality and promoting early childhood development among at-risk families.