“Today’s mothers are twice as likely to die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes than their mothers were. There is no reason, given our vast resources, knowledge and technology, why we should be going backwards in this area.” – Laura Gilkey, coordinator of The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, a nonprofit based in Sarasota, Fla.
Globally, only a few countries have seen a rise in the rate of maternal deaths in recent years. Those include Afghanistan, El Salvador, South Sudan and the United States of America. While at one the US had all but eliminated deaths associated with childbirth, things have changed in recent years, with maternal death rates climbing from 14.5 per 100,000 to 17.8 per 100,000 between 2007 and 2011. As of 2014, the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth in the US has risen to 28 deaths per 100,000.
For purposes of comparison, the maternal death rate in nearly all wealthy, developed nations is a single digit number. As of 2014, the US maternal death rate is 7 times higher than that of Austria, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden, all nation’s which have a maternal mortality rate of just 4 deaths per 100,000.
It might surprise conservatives to learn that the maternal death rate in the US is 14 times greater than that of Israel. While right wingers might be under the impression that Israel’s very low maternal mortality rate is the result of strict abortion policies, nothing could be further from the truth. The country has very liberal abortion laws, and women are provided with government subsidized abortion services. The country’s liberal policies regarding women’s health has led to a maternal death rate of just two women per 100,000.
According to an article published in Medical Daily, in October 2014, since the year 2011:
Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Kansas have implemented 14 abortion restrictions — the most of any other state. Arkansas and Indiana were tied for the second-most restriction, while Florida, Arizona, and Alabama were tied for third. And out of all 50 states, it was the ones with more restrictions that also had higher, well, everything: maternal deaths, uninsured rates, infant and child death rates, teen drug and alcohol abuse, as well as lower preventive care and cancer screening rates.
The article cited evidence from a 2014 study conducted by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The study, ‘Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women And Children’s Health And Well-Being Against Abortion Restrictions In The States‘ found that the states with the greatest number of abortion restrictions scored lowest on indicators of women’s and children’s overall health and well-being.
As of 2011, the state of Georgia, which has 11 restrictive abortion laws, leads the nation in the number of maternal deaths,at 35 per 100,000 live births. As it turns out, right-wing anti-abortion policies aren’t only sexist, they are also racist. In Georgia’s Fulton County, for example, the maternal death rate for black women is 94 per 100,000 live births. In the same county, however, the maternal death rate for white women is nearly non-existent. In Chocktaw, Mississippi, one of the three states with the most restrictive abortion laws, the maternal death rate is higher than it is in Sub-Saharan African countries. On a national level, black woman are far more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
The state with the second highest rate of maternal mortality is Oklahoma, according to Sept 2014 report by the Oklahoma Hospital Association. The state also continues to have a much higher than average infant mortality rate. One of just three states in the US that has enacted 14 strict anti-choice laws, Oklahoma is one of the most dangerous places in the country for pregnant women.
The rising death toll in the GOP war on women can be linked to several factors, including decreasing access to abortion and limited health care for women. Other factors include socioeconomic conditions that specifically impact women. Ranked the fourth worst state for women, Mississippi does a terrible job recording and reporting on the number of women who die during pregnancy in the state. According to the state’s website, however, Mississippi has ‘a high rate of maternal deaths.’ The state’s infant mortality rate, and rate of teen pregnancy are the highest in the nation.
It’s not just maternal death rates that are on the increase for women in the US. In March of last year, MSNBC published a report on the spike in female deaths in specific areas of the country. The map below was drawn using the most recently available research, which covers the years 1992 – 1996 and 2002 – 2006.
Compare the map above to the one below, which shows increasing mortality rates for men during the same period.
These are alarming trends which, in a country governed by sanity, would have lawmakers searching for answers. Yet, in the past decade the US has been governed, not by sanity, but by religious extremism. The facts are in and it’s more than clear that the right-wing’s obsession with saving zygotes is killing women. Yet while the right wing religious fanatics are in the middle of straining at gnats and swallowing camels, we know all too well that they won’t be interrupted by a trivial reality, like women dying.
On the first day that the new Congress convened in Washington, Republicans attempted to pass five more restrictive and dangerous anti-abortion laws at the Federal level. These attacks are only going to get worse, as the religious fanatics in Washington give more and more rights to fertilized eggs, while taking more and more rights away from US women. They claim their fanaticism is ‘pro-life,’ but Republican laws result in death, not life.
Featured image via MSNBC