Monday, September 12, 2016

High Maternal Mortality Rate in Texas Exposes the Lack of Quality Health Care for Low Income Women

The Nation (Sept. 8, 2016): The Story Behind the Maternal Mortality Rate in Texas is Even Sadder Than We Realize, by Katha Pollitt:

A recent report found that the state of Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Opinion writers have noted that the maternal mortality rate doubled from 2011-14 after Texas slashed its family planning budget, closing many family planning clinics that provided the first line of reproductive health care to low-income women.  But, Pollitt notes that the cuts were a contributing factor to a deeper problem - the lack of medical care for low income women.

Most Texas women who died post-pregnancy didn’t do so in the delivery room, but six weeks or more after childbirth. The three top causes: cardiac events, drug overdoses, and hypertension. 

This suggests that the health care that women receive both before and after pregnancy has a strong impact on maternal mortality rates. Texas is one of 19 states that declined to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and women who qualify for coverage under the state emergency Medicaid program lose coverage 60 days after birth. 

Structural racism is also a major factor in maternal mortality rates:

In Texas, the maternal-mortality rate for white women is in step with their pregnancy rate; for Hispanic women, it’s actually lower. But black women are 11.4 percent of all pregnant women in the state and a whopping 29 percent of those who die.

The lack of drug treatment is another factor.  Drug overdoses are the second-biggest cause of maternal mortality in Texas and help with drug abuse within the state is scarce.

The maternal mortality statistics in Texas should be a wake up call to re-evaluate the state's health policies.  Instead, the state recently allocated $1.6 million of its women's health care funding to an anti-abortion group that has no experience providing health services. Unless the state starts putting health care ahead of politics, we will not see a significant improvement in maternal mortality rates.

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