We’re the glaring exception

The paradox of the US – so rich, yet so third world by so many measures – like maternal mortality for instance. With all our piles of cash, we suck at keeping poor women alive throughout pregnancy and delivery. How shameful that is. We’d rather spend the piles of cash on making sure that rich people can buy all the houses they want than on good healthcare for all.

The good news is that maternal mortality rates are declining worldwide. The bad news? The situation for women in the United States is a glaring exception. And in Texas, where clinics serving women have shuttered and their health interests have been battled all the way up to the US Supreme Court, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths more than doubled over the course of two years.

These are some of the findings in a new study (PDF) in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The authors set out to analyze maternal mortality trends in part because the United States government has not published official data on this subject since 2007, they said, calling that fact an “international embarrassment.”

Why yes, that is an embarrassment. Shame on us.

The United States performs worse than any other developed nation when it comes to maternal death, according to State of the World’s Mothers 2015, the most recent comprehensive report compiled by Save the Children, a 90-year old global organization advocating for kids’ needs.

That’s what I mean. Worse than any other developed nation. That’s shameful.

And Texas is the standout.

From 2006 through 2010, numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the rate of maternal deaths in Texas wavered little. There were as few as 69 deaths in 2009 and as many as 82 in 2008. But from 2010 to 2012, those numbers shot up from 72 deaths to 148. In 2013, deaths fell slightly to 140, and there were 135 in 2014, the last year analyzed by the study’s researchers.

Advocates for reproductive rights — including the right to legal and safe abortions — were quick to seize upon the news with their analysis about the trend in Texas.
The uptick is no coincidence, they say. In this same window of time, Texas politicians voted to defund Planned Parenthood and slashed family planning dollars, reducing access to more than abortions. Other services provided by Planned Parenthood, which often caters to underserved communities, include breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling, STD testing and treatment, and multiple forms of preventive women’s care.
“For many of our patients, Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics are their gateway to the health care system,” said Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, in a written statement. “Women have been left out in the cold, without being able to obtain regular healthcare screenings, or birth control to space their pregnancies, and delays in their initial pregnancy test and prenatal referral — all of which are harmful to women’s health.”

But Texas is only the worst.

Of 183 countries and territories studied from 1990 to 2013, only 17 saw maternal mortality rate percentage increases, the World Health Organization report “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2013” showed. In the United States, the maternal mortality rate grew by 136% over those 23 years, more than any other country studied.

More than any other country studied.

12 Responses to “We’re the glaring exception”