As many rejoiced throughout the land at the dawn of Aug. 1 — a landmark day when new requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act went into effect, granting some 47 million women (about 400,000 here in Nevada) access to birth control without co-pays, preventative care, and more — some of us were also gathering for a tweet-chat hosted by the Women’s Media Center and Women’s E-News.
The topic: The sobering reality of America’s high maternal mortality rate, anchored by a series of startling new stories on the issue on Women’s E-News.
Stats alone from the stories are enough to make you stop in your tracks, some of which are also in this report from Amnesty International (PDF):
- The US is one of 23 countries where maternal mortality is on the rise.
- We are the only developed nation with a rising maternal mortality rate.
- American women face a greater risk of maternal death than in 49 other countries.
And the ratio of deaths (per 100,000 live births) seems to show no signs of slowing down. It jumped from 12.7 in 2007 to 16.1 a scant two years later.
Clearly, we should be alarmed. So, why is that nobody even knows about this? Women’s E-News Editor-in-Chief Rita Henley Jensen writes:
Unfortunately, observers and so-called experts say the numbers are not that high. They aren’t at “epidemic” portions. And if you compare the U.S. to Niger, then yes, the American women don’t seem to be at a high risk. But the numbers are increasing and few in the news media are flagging the fact the something is off.
And the story doesn’t end there. The usual suspects–poverty, pre-existing conditions, obesity, teen pregnancy and lack of prenatal care–are most likely NOT completely responsible for the number of women who leave hospitals in coffins rather than walking out with their newborns in their arms.
In short: Where’s the outrage?
Indeed, where is it? And I cast the sidelong glance in all directions. Do we in the prochoice movement have such tunnel-vision about protecting one part of a woman’s life experience that we have ignored another completely? And what of the anti-choice personhood police? For all their rallying to save “unborn” or “preborn” beings, where’s the anger over mothers dying at such a high rate? Surely, some of their own have fallen in that silent plight.
Something is askew here. I myself am a mother and I went through a very difficult labor and birthing experience. (All I’m going to say is: 37 hours.) So, I put myself on notice, too.
But I didn’t know anything about this. And I’m guessing neither did many of you. How could this be happening to this many mothers, to this many families, and we don’t hear about it?
And it’s happening right here in Nevada, lest you think this is one of those somebody-else’s-problem kind of things. According to a 2011 report (PDF) released by the Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada has the second-highest rate of uninsured women (20.4 percent) and a maternal mortality rate higher than the national average.
So, the question is: What are we going to do about it?
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