American women may seem to have it great when it comes to things like access to education and employment choices. But one area that needs some serious improvement: women's health care, particularly when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. Because according to a new study, our nation's mothers are dying.
The country's track record for maternal death is bad and getting worse. (BTW, a "maternal death" is when a woman dies during pregnancy or within one year following delivery due to conditions brought on or made worse by the pregnancy, according to the World Health Organization.) The rate of maternal death in 48 states and Washington D.C. is actually increasing, growing by about 27 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to a new study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. For comparison, 166 out of the 183 countries surveyed showed decreasing rates. If that weren't bad enough, the U.S. ranks number one for the highest rate of maternal deaths out of all developed nations, according to 2015's State of the World's Mothers, a report compiled by Save the Children.
While California saw a marked improvement in their numbers, the biggest jump in maternal deaths was noted in Texas, where the number of cases doubled between 2010 and 2014 alone. So what is California doing right and Texas doing wrong?
Unfortunately, there isn't one clear-cut answer, but researchers do seem to have a theory that might help explain Texas' extreme case. In 2011, legislators in that state voted to defund Planned Parenthood and any other women's health care providers with ties to abortion and banned them from participating in the federally funded Medicaid Women's Health Program. This shuttered clinics around the state, not only reducing Texas women's access to abortion but also impacting women's health care in general. Abortions account for just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The remaining 97 percent of services include prenatal care, birth control, STD treatment and prevention, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and routine gynecological checkups—services especially vital to the 80 percent of Planned Parenthood patients who have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
Regardless of why the U.S. is falling short, it's important to come up with solutions to fix it—and fast. "There is a need to redouble efforts to prevent maternal deaths and improve maternity care for the 4 million U.S. women giving birth each year," the authors concluded in the paper.
Too many mothers and babies are dying. It's time to do something about it.