Thursday, September 21, 2017
Tribunal Constitucional de Chile (Aug. 21, 2017):
A Chilean court has upheld a law decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape, fatal fetal impairment, and when a woman's life is in danger. A group of conservative senators representing more than a quarter of the members of Senate challenged the law's constitutionality.
The decision is grounded in international human rights treaties. With these rights in mind, and in view of the effect of pregnancy on women, the court concluded that the criminal law should be used only as a last resort.
Regarding the "threat to the woman's life" criterion, the Court has decided that only assessment of the physician attending the woman is necessary in order not to delay the provision of care.
The opinions of two physicians are required in an assessment of whether a case is one of "fatal fetal impairment." The Court warned against "decisional paralysis" in such cases, since delay can pose a danger to the patient.
Finally, in cases of rape, a child under the age of 14 must have an abortion before 14 weeks of gestation, while an older patient has under 12 weeks of gestation.
Even though it remains under in the Inter-American human rights systems whether artificial legal persons have the right to conscientious objection, the Court, intending to promote freedom of conscience and religion, ruled that hospitals and clinics may lodge institutional conscientious objections to abortion.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
The Nation (September 13, 2017): My Body, My Choice, Why the Principle of Bodily Autonomy Can Unite the Left, by David M. Perry:
An advocate for disability argues that the right to bodily autonomy can unite groups on the "left." In particular, he suggests that the struggle to defend body autonomy can bring reproductive rights and disability rights activists together.
Reproductive rights and disability rights are often seen as being in tension, but they don’t have to be. As recently argued by attorney and autistic activist Shain Neumeier, history shows us that allowing the government to exercise control over reproduction always goes badly for disabled people. This is most famous visible in the history of eugenic sterilization of disabled men and women in the United States, but continues in more subtle battles about whether disabled people should be allowed to have sex at all. Disability rights and reproductive rights find common ground over resisting governmental intrusion into individual reproductive decisions. The abstract principle of bodily autonomy unites rather than fragments.
Perry argues that body autonomy is a principle that resonates with other seemingly disparate movements as well and creates a place to "unite our struggles without erasing our differences."
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The Pudding (September 2017): How far is too far? An analysis of driving times to abortion clinics in the US, by Russell Goldenberg, Amber Thomas and Caitlyn Ralph
As states continue to impose restrictions on abortion clinics that force facilities to close or stop providing services for women later in pregnancy, it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to access abortion care. A new analysis published in The Pudding quantifies how clinic closures actually impact the distance women have to travel to abortion clinics. The study looks at driving distances from cities with populations over 500,000. Currently there are 151 urban areas that do not have an abortion clinic within an hour roundtrip drive. Women living in urban areas in Texas and in South Dakota have no clinics within an 8 hour roundtrip drive.
The article provides an interactive tool that allows readers to see how long a round trip to an abortion clinic would be from different urban areas. Because many clinics do not provide services later in pregnancy, the tool also allows readers to see the distance women must travel to obtain abortions at 8, 12, 16 and 20 weeks. The article also looks at changes in accessibility in states that are currently considering legislation that could could force further clinic closures. For instance, if the sole abortion clinic in North Dakota is forced to close, the length of time women would have to drive to access abortion services from Fargo, ND would increase from under an hour to 6 hours and from 5 hours to 11 hours for women living in Bismarck, ND.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Reuters (September 7, 2017): Abortion via telemedicine as safe as seeing doctor in person, by Ronnie Cohen:
A new study has found that the safety of medication abortion is the same when doctors provide information about how to use abortion inducing drugs through video conferencing as when doctors meet with a woman in person.
“We can really say definitively now that there is no increased risk of complications among women who obtain medication abortion by telemedicine as opposed to women who have an in-person visit with a physician,” said lead author Dr. Daniel Grossman, an obstetrician-gynecologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
The study also found that adverse events in both situations were extremely rare.
The study's findings are significant because providing the option of telemedince can remove barriers to abortion for women who have difficulty traveling to an in person doctor appointment. A 2008 study showed that women's ability to obtain a first trimester abortion, rather than a second trimester abortion increased by 50% when women could obtain medication abortion by telemedicine.
Currently 18 states have laws that require that doctors meet with women in person when providing medication abortion. The study could support a constitutional challenge to these laws since the Supreme Court has held in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt that medical regulations that restrict access to abortion in the guise of protecting women's health must actually provide some health benefit.
Friday, August 25, 2017
(August 24, 2017): Call for Papers:
The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network is seeking submissions for the Law and Society Annual Meeting, June 7-10, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. Submissions are due Sunday September 17. Submission link: https://form.jotformpro.com/pijip/2018fltcrn
Here is the call for papers:
We invite you to participate in the panels sponsored by the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Annual Meeting in Toronto in June 2018. The Feminist Legal Theory CRN brings together law and society scholars across a range of fields who share an interest in feminist legal theory. Information about the Law and Society meeting is available at http://www.lawandsociety.org.
This year’s meeting invites us to explore LAW AT THE CROSSROADS/LE DROIT A LA CROISÉE DES CHEMINS. We seek in proposals that explore the application of feminist legal theory to this rich theme, across any substantive area.
If you would like to present a paper as part of a CRN panel, submit your 500 word abstract to https://form.jotformpro.com/pijip/2018fltcrn by the deadline of September 17, 2017.
Our goal is to stimulate focused discussion of papers on which scholars are currently working. While you may submit papers that are closer to publication, we are particularly eager to receive proposals for works-in-progress that are at an earlier stage and will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide. We are also especially interested in hearing from junior scholars, and welcome submissions from scholars in VAPs, fellowship programs, non-tenure and pre-tenure positions.
The Planning Committee will group accepted papers into panels of four, based on subject matter. Each presentation should run roughly 10 minutes to allow ample time for discussion. A chair or discussant will provide feedback on each paper.
If you would like to propose a pre-formed panel of four papers with a chair and a discussant, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include that information in the appropriate box on the submission form for each of the papers as well.
In addition to traditional panels, we are open to some of the other formats that the LSA allows, including Author meets Reader, Salon, or Roundtable. If you have an idea that you think would work well in one of these formats, please email us at email@example.com. Please note that for roundtables, organizers must provide a 500-word summary of the topic and the contributions they expect the proposed participants to make. Please also note that LSA rules limit you to participating only once, either as a paper panelist or as a roundtable participant.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Washington Post (Aug. 21, 2017): Abstinence-only education doesn't work. We're still funding it, by John Santelli
This year's federal budget includes $90 million in funding for abstinence-only education programs, and in July the Department of Health & Human Services announced that it will end funding for the Office of Adolescent Health’s evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention program in 2018. That program currently tests prevention programs based on the latest available science.
In the article, John Santelli, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University and former president of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, argues that there is no testing needed on abstinence-only education. It doesn't work, and there is ample research backing that assertion.
The Family & Youth Services Bureau of HHS now refers to abstinence-only education as "sexual risk avoidance," but a new name doesn't fix old problems. In fact, comprehensive evidence-based sex education helps young people remain abstinent, while abstinence-only education fails to achieve that goal. In a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC found inconclusive evidence on the effectiveness of 23 abstinence-only education programs, while the 66 comprehensive sex-ed programs also studied showed positive effects on adolescent behavior, including the use of protection, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and pregnancy rates.
Santelli also argues that the goal of abstinence until marriage is increasingly unrealistic in a world where Americans are marrying later in life. The median age for first marriage of American females is now 26.5, and the median age for males is 30.
Since 1982, the federal government has spent over $2 billion on domestic abstinence-only education programs. By 2009, however, half of all states refused funding for abstinence-only programs in favor of comprehensive sex education. Following the 2010 Congressional elections, however, abstinence-only programs are seeing a nationwide resurgence.
It isn't just medical organizations and doctors that oppose abstinence-only sex education. Many churches also oppose the practice, including the United Church of Christ, and most American parents strongly support evidence-based sex education programs. It is up to Americans, Santelli says, to step up and tell Congress and President Trump that we want our tax dollars to fund comprehensive sex education programs that truly prepare our children for sexual activity.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
openDemocracy.net (Aug. 15, 2017): Reproductive Rights on the Move: Refugee Women in Greece Struggle to Access Contraception, by Zoe Holman
Refugee women are struggling to maintain control of their bodies and reproductive choices as a result of practical and cultural challenges within their transitional lives. A recent study has identified that while 60% of women in pre-war Syria used some form of contraception, only 37% of married Syrian women currently living as refugees in Lebanon do the same.
Often, statistics like this exist because refugee women are not comfortable or reasonably able to use the common forms of contraception available in their relocated states. Injectable contraceptives are popular among refugee women, as they're more conducive to women on the move, but they are not always widely available in every country. Contraceptive pills--often more easily accessible--are not always a realistic choice for a woman without a regular routine or stability.
The lack of contraception among refugee populations can lead to more unwanted and challenging pregnancies as well as dangerous, often illicit, attempts at abortion. Seeking an abortion in a foreign country, even where it is legal, is an intimidating prospect for a refugee woman and often logistically prohibitive.
Of particular concern to many migrating women is the exacerbated risk of sexual violence and the resulting threat to a woman's reproductive autonomy.
The director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights says that women emigrating from Eritrea can expect to be raped at least twice before reaching Europe. With this known risk in mind, many women take potent doses of contraceptive before starting their journey to lessen the risk of an unwanted pregnancy from sexual violence. This can lead to longterm damage and reproductive difficulties in the future.
In Greece, a study of nine refugee camps found that insecure conditions left many women at constant risk of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and trafficking. Perpetrators, it said, have included volunteers and fellow refugees.
Despite the UN noting that reproductive health is a crucial element to mental and social well-being, conflict-ridden regions still receive 50% less funding for reproductive services than non-conflict zones. Thus far, the international outcry to increase funding for safe contraception and sexual healthcare for refugee and migrant women has gone largely unanswered.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 9, 2017): The Right to (Black) Life, by Renee Bracey Sherman
Three years since the killing of Michael Brown, women of color are asserting that one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time is not abortion, as anti-choice advocates argue, but police brutality.
While the fundamental right to procreate (or not to) remains essential for black women, many point out that this choice, without the legitimate ability to raise their children in safety and away from violence, "rings hollow."
It’s important to understand that the fight for reproductive justice and the fight to end police brutality go hand in hand. State violence and control, whether through racist policing, the criminal justice system or the welfare system, are all issues at the core of reproductive justice. They are fundamentally about whether you, or the state, has control over your own body and destiny.
Reproductive justice as a human rights framework, was initiated by women of color in the early 1990s. Beyond abortion, the movement is about ensuring a woman's right to choose whether to conceive, her right to a safe, shame-free pregnancy, and the right to raise her children free from state control and brutality.
Discrimination against black mothers and mothers-to-be begins right away and is recognized by organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Racial bias, they say, affects mothers and families both directly through unequal treatment, and indirectly through the stress of such an environment.
Anti-abortion activists, in particular, when black mothers survive the killing of their children, look to blame the mother or the child himself. "They scrutinize every parenting decision and ignore the structural issues that force those decisions."
Far too often, compassion for black lives doesn’t extend beyond the womb or to the black women carrying that womb. Too few tears are shed for the people killed by police violence. Reproductive justice is about the resolve to raise our families on our own terms, safely. This is the fight for the right to life.
Friday, August 18, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 16, 2017): Sperm Count in Western Men Has Dropped Over 50 Percent Since 1973, Paper Finds, by Maya Salam
The sperm count of men in Western countries has been declining precipitously with no signs of “leveling off,” according to new research, bolstering a school of thought that male health in the modern world is at risk, possibly threatening fertility.
By examining thousands of studies and conducting a meta-analysis of 185 — the most comprehensive effort to date — an international team of researchers ultimately looked at semen samples from 42,935 men from 50 countries from 1973 to 2011.
They found that sperm concentration — the number of sperm per milliliter of semen — had declined each year, amounting to a 52.4 percent total decline, in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Possible causes that researchers have identified include exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and chemicals--such as phthalates--in utero. Age, obesity, and stress also play a role in lowered sperm count and quality. While long-term consequences have yet to be identified, research shows that fertility rates in Western nations are too low to sustain the current population.
Washington's Top News (August 12, 2017): Texas set to restrict insurance coverage for abortion, by The Associated Press
A bill that would require women to purchase separate insurance for abortions that are not medical emergencies has passed the Texas state House after hours of debate. The next step is the Texas Senate which could pass the bill as early as tonight. After that the bill would be sent to the Texas Governor, Greg Abbottt. If signed into law Texas would follow in the footsteps of several other states that have laws which restrict health insurance coverage of abortion.
Supporter of the bill Republican Rep. John Smithee states that the proposed law, "applies only to 'elective' abortions and promotes 'economic freedom' by not forcing Texas policyholders who object to abortion to 'subsidize' insurance coverage for women undergoing the procedure". Democrats however argue that this move is purely political since most insurance companies only cover medically necessary abortions. Democrat Rep. Chris Turner states that this law would essentially require women to purchase "rape insurance" since the law would not have a rape or incest exception.
Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute states, "my sense is that there isn't any identifiable impact of these restrictions since most women pay out of pocket already". According to the Guttmacher Institute about 60 percent of insured abortion recipients pay out of pocket. The insurance ban has also been condemned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which says that abortion procedures should be compared to other essential health care procedures.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Chicago Tribune (August 16, 2017): Federal court: Arkansas can block Planned Parenthood money, by Andrew DeMillo:
On Wednesday, the 8th Circuit vacated a preliminary injunction prohibiting Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood. The district court initially enjoined Arkansas from suspending Medicaid payments under a Medicaid provision that provides a right to Medicaid recipients to choose any qualified provider. Four other circuits reached the same conclusion as the district court and prohibited states from disqualifying Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments.
However, in a 2 to 1 decision, the Eighth Circuit held that the "choice of provider" provision does not create a cause of action for individual plaintiffs (here the Medicaid recipients who received services from Planned Parenthood). Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson claimed that the state ended Planned Parenthood's contract because of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue sales, which have been deemed false by multiple investigations. The decision does not reach the question of whether the videos constitute an appropriate grounds to terminate Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has indicated that it is "evaluating all options to ensure our patients receive uninterrupted care."
Chicago Tribune (August 9, 2017): Abortion rights group starts advocacy campaign aimed at men, by Rick Pearson
In an effort to engage men, an abortion rights group in Illinois has started a campaign which is named "CallBullS***" or "CallBS". The goal of the campaign is to show men that they do not face the same type of restrictions on their reproductive health as do women. The group hopes to promote awareness of a bill in the state legislature that would expand abortion rights, but that the governor, Bruce Rauner, says he will veto.
The digital media campaign will feature men supporting abortion rights. The campaign will be spread using various social media platforms. The co-founder and executive director of Men4Choice, Oren Jacobson, says that the name is how the campaign first evolved. The name he says it how most men react when they hear about possible restrictions to their reproductive health and Jacobson believes the name will strongly speak to men.
Personal PAC CEO, Terry Cosgrove, one of the organizations leading this campaign, says that this is not just about abortion, but about all reproductive health services and access to birth control. He says the idea was created organically, simply by asking men how they would feel about needing to travel to other states to receive Viagra or a vasectomy. "We decided to give men a space to get involved and take action".
The legislative effort is being conducted by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in Illinois as a way to ensure abortion remains legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The bill would also remove restrictions on using state funding for elective abortions for women on Medicaid and to provide abortion coverage to Illinois state employees. Lawmakers however are hesitant to send Governor Rauner the bill as they are unsure of his position and whether or not he veto it.
Friday, August 4, 2017
WBUR 90.9 (Aug. 1, 2017): States With More Abortion Restrictions Score Worse On Women's Health, Study Finds, by Eojin Choi
A newly released report by Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights found that the the twenty-six states with more than ten abortion restrictions had poorer health outcomes for women than the twenty-four states with fewer than ten restrictions.
Titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women's and Children's Health and Well-being Against Abortion Restrictions in the States, the report's findings challenge anti-choice politicians' claims of passing abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women's health and safety.
Some examples of positive, supportive policies include Medicaid expansion, expanded family and medical leave, mandated evidence-based sex education, maternal mortality review boards, and contraceptive parity laws. The study found that many states with more abortion restrictions lack these supportive policies.
The report was first published in 2014 and is updated for 2017. You can read the full report here.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Winston-Salem Journal/Associated Press (Jul. 30, 2017): Judge blocks Arkansas from enforcing four abortion restrictions, by Andrew DeMillo
A federal judge in Arkansas blocked four new abortion restrictions from taking effect, including a ban on dilation & evacuation (D&E, the safest and most common second-trimester procedure), a sex-selection ban, and a fetal-remains restriction that would have effectively required a partner's consent prior to having an abortion. The ruling came down from U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the case on behalf of Little Rock, Arkansas provider Dr. Frederick Hopkins.
D&E bans are currently in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia and are blocked in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. This year, Texas passed an identical ban that is slated to become effective in September but is being challenged in court.
The sex-selection ban included a provision requiring that a doctor performing the abortion first request records related to the entire pregnancy history of the woman. Judge Baker struck down the restriction, noting that the provision "will cause women to forgo abortion in Arkansas rather than risk disclosure to medical providers who they know oppose abortion or who are family friends or neighbors."
The fourth struck-down law required physicians performing abortions on minors under 17 years of age to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and notify police where the minor resides. Arkansas currently enforces such a requirement for minors under 14 years of age.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
The Texas Tribune (July 20, 2017): Abortion rights groups sue Texas over procedure ban, by Marissa Evans
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood announced last week their decision to sue the state of Texas for a provision in Texas' Senate Bill 8 which is set to go into effect this September. This bill will ban dilation and evacuation abortions, a procedure in which doctors use instruments to remove fetal tissue. The procedure would only be permitted if the fetus is already dead.
Medical professionals state that the dilation and evacuation technique is the safest way to perform an abortion. However, abortion opponents argue that the procedure is inhumane. Similar laws in other states have already been stopped by the courts. This will be the third time this year that Texas will have to defend its abortion laws in court.
Despite the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt which last year held multiple Texas abortion policies unconstitutional, Texas continues to pass anti-abortion bills. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has put several abortion bills on the docket for the special session which started on July 18th.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Huffington Post (July 17, 2017): Investing In Women's Reproductive Health: The Value of $8, by Seema Jalan
New research from the Guttmacher Institute reveals that the need for contraceptives, quality maternal care, and new born health care could be met with only $8.39 per person in the developing world . However, this need is going unmet for millions of women. The research showed that 214 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but cannot do so using modern contraceptives for numerous reasons. These 214 million women make up approximately 84% of unintended pregnancies in developing regions.
The study also shows that the need for contraceptives, maternal care, and newborn health care are all connected. When all three are provided alongside the others it is the "greatest return on investment...a 130% return." In addition to being economical, it will also save lives. This year alone more than 300,000 women in the developing world will die from pregnancy-related causes, and 2.7 million babies will die in their first month of life. If women had the ability to plan for and space out their pregnancies in combination with receiving quality maternal and new born health care, those numbers would be dramatically reduced. Not only would it reduce deaths; it would also allow women to stay in school and break the cycle of poverty. In order to eliminate the gap and provide quality reproductive health care to women and families in the developing world, investments need to be made by governments, individuals, and civil society.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Al Jazeera (Jul. 19, 2017): Chile Moves to Ease Strict Abortion Laws, by AFP News Agency:
In 1989, the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte outlawed abortion in Chile in all cases. Almost 30 years later, the law remains unchanged.
In 2015, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet advanced a proposal to decriminalize abortion at up to 12 weeks if the pregnant person's physical health was at risk, if the fetus would not survive the pregnancy, or in cases of rape. The reform also included an 18-week window for pregnant individuals under the age of 14. President Bachelet urged Chilean lawmakers to take up the legislation before the country's elections are held in November. The government's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, has already approved the reforms and the issue now lies before the Senate, which began consideration on Monday, July 17th.
Consideration in the Senate did not come without hurdles. Senate President Andres Zaldivar advanced a proposal arguing that abortion when the mother's life is at risk should not legally be considered an abortion. That measure failed by just one vote following five hours of debate. The legislation finally passed the Senate in the early hours of Wednesday after a 17-hour session, and is now under reconsideration by the Chamber of Deputies. Should the law pass the lower chamber, it will head to President Bachelet for final approval.
Chile is one of just six countries in the world where individuals can be prosecuted for seeking an abortion irrespective of circumstances.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Nashville Public Radio (Jul. 17, 2017): Why Women Still Must See A Doctor For The Pill, A Year After Tennessee Law Changed, by Chas Sisk
Early last year, Democrats and Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature co-sponsored and passed legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. Over a year later, pharmacists in Tennessee are still waiting on finalized rules from the Tennessee Department of Health.
State health officials say that final rule drafting has been "complicated." Originally scheduled to be published this summer, the Department has struggled to balance federal regulations with existing law.
The bill had widespread bipartisan support in Tennessee and the backing of major medical associations, pharmacist groups, and reproductive rights organizations. In the face of federal inaction on the issue and the FDA's resistance to over-the-counter birth control, Tennessee took matters into its own hands.
Under the law, women will still have to answer questions about their health before they can receive birth control pills at the pharmacy, and they'll have to be warned of potential side effects. Pharmacists are also required to write out the prescriptions, primarily for record-keeping purposes.
Tennessee will be just the fourth state to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, after California, Oregon, and Colorado. California's law spent 18 months in the rulemaking process, and Tennessee officials now expect the same for their own law.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Human Rights Watch (July 10, 2017): Contraception is Lifesaving but Often Out of Reach, by Nisha Varia
This week, the Family Planning Summit met in London. The goal of this annual meeting is to bring governments, donors, and civil society together to discuss progress and future goals in expanding access to modern contraception for millions of women globally.
Family planning and effective contraception saves lives.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19 globally and cause 800 women and girls to die each day. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 22,000 women die from abortion-related complications each year.
This year, many lobbied for the Summit to include conversations on the effects of the Trump administration's reimplementation of the "Global Gag Rule." The controversial policy prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. health funding if they use funds from any source to provide information about abortions, advocate for or provide abortions.
The policy affects $8.8 billion of foreign assistance. The anticipated consequences of the Gag Rule include increases in unplanned pregnancies and dangerous abortions as well as a higher maternal death rate.
Vox (Jun. 29, 2017): California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth, by Julia Belluz:
At the same time the global maternal death rate fell by nearly 44 percent, between 2000 and 2014, the United States watched its maternal mortality rate skyrocket 27 percent. Maternal mortality refers to "the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she's carrying or within 42 days after birth." Childbirth is more dangerous in the U.S. than any other wealthy nation. The reason? The U.S. does not value its women.
The United States is in the company of only 12 other countries whose maternal mortality rates have actually increased in recent years, including North Korea and Zimbabwe.
Researchers and health care advocates argue that a high maternal death rate is a reflection of how that culture views its women.
[In the U.S.,] policies and funding dollars tend to focus on babies, not the women who bring them into the world. For example, Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans, will only cover women during and shortly after pregnancy.
Texas, having rejected Medicaid expansion and closed the majority of its Planned Parenthood clinics, has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. California, however, has proven to be an exception within the nation. The California maternal mortality rate has steadily decreased over the same time that the rest of the nation's has risen, thanks in large part to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC).
60% of maternal deaths are preventable and the complications that cause them should be anticipated. The CMQCC finds that even within an imperfect health care system, death from childbirth need not be an inevitability. Maternal deaths in the U.S. often result from common complications like hemorrhaging and preeclampsia. The CMQCC has enacted simple, lifesaving procedures over the last decade to reduce the number of unnecessary maternal deaths. And, they're working.
First, they aimed to lower the number of unnecessary C-sections performed. Cesarian sections are often prematurely offered by obstetricians who are short on time. The procedure can leave mothers with internal scar tissue that ultimately makes future pregnancies more dangerous by increasing the mother's risk of hemorrhaging.
As many maternal deaths are a result of hemorrhaging--a mother can bleed to death within five minutes--doctors set out to prepare every delivery room in hospitals participating in their program with a "hemorrhage cart," equipped with everything necessary to handle a bleeding problem the moment it begins.
In a recent study, researchers found a 21 percent reduction in severe complications related to hemorrhages in the hospitals participating in CMQCC's program. Hospitals not participating in the program saw only a one percent reduction.
California has demonstrated that even in our messy and imperfect health care system, progress is possible. They’ve shown the rest of the country what happens when people care about and organize around women’s health. Policymakers owe it to the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and their mothers, to figure out how to bring that success to families across the country.
How the current health care debate and the resulting volatility of the insurance market will affect the United States' maternal mortality rate going forward remains to be seen.