She died after giving birth. Her grieving husband hopes a new bill will save others.

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By Elizabeth Chuck

Kira Johnson’s presence is everywhere in her two young sons’ lives. Poster-sized pictures of her fill their house. They regularly watch home videos of her. And their father, Kira’s husband Charles Johnson IV, brings her sense of adventure and determination into everything they do as a family.

“I try to do Kira-style, like Mommy would do it,” Johnson said. “My mantra is just wake up and make Mommy proud.”

And while Johnson loves to talk about Kira with his sons, 4-year-old Charles Johnson V and 2-year-old Langston, there are some questions they ask about their mother — who died hours after giving birth to Langston — that he struggles to answer.

Kira Johnson and her husband, Charles Johnson IV, with their son Charles Johnson V at his birthday party.Courtesy of Charles Johnson IV

“Charles will ask, ‘Does Mommy like soccer?’ and I’m like, ‘Mommy loves soccer.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, can she come to my game?” Johnson said. “Or Charles will ask, ‘Is Mommy mad at me? Why won’t she come home?’ You try your best to articulate, ‘Well, Mommy is in heaven. She’s doing important work with God.’ And he says, ‘I want to go to heaven.’ Those are the things that are the most painful.'”

Kira, 39, an accomplished businesswoman in hospitality and education, died in the early hours of April 13, 2016, a day after giving birth to Langston via a scheduled Cesarean section.

The Johnsons’ story is far from an isolated incident: Each year in the United States, about 700 women die as a result of pregnancy or delivery issues — while 50,000 experience severe complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the stunning statistics — America ranks the worst out of all developed nations on maternal mortality, a rate based on deaths of women while giving birth or within a year after — attempts to address the crisis have failed on a federal level.

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