Texas Department of State Health Services missed its deadline to publish 2019’s data on maternal mortality rates (MMR's) in the state. They announced that the data will be made available during the middle of 2023. Is this a piece of administrative incompetence, or does it attempt to hide the statistics from the public’s view until after the 2022 midterms?
MMR, or Maternal Mortality Rate, is plainly explained as the number of mothers dying while giving birth or due to pregnancy-related issues. These numbers are typically expressed in numeric values per 100,000 live births. MMR is a measure of our country’s development and the ability of the citizens to access good health care.
However, it indirectly measures gender equality; for instance, fathers don’t die during pregnancy or childbirth. That said, a goal of an equitable society should be to try and eliminate the risk for mothers. Caring for expecting mothers costs a decent chunk of money, with richer countries having lower MMR rates.
2017 data shows that Italy and Norway recorded only two maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Spain and Sweden had four, France and Singapore eight, with Japan had five to report. In contrast, the United States reported 19 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. These stats show that America is the worst place to give birth in the developed world.
Unfortunately, things are only going to keep getting worse. A report by the World Health Organization, WHO found that all of the world’s regions experienced significant drops in maternal mortality rates between 2000 and 2017. European rates dropped by 53 percent, Sub-Saharan Africa went down 38 percent, and Latin America by 23 percent, with the global average decreasing by 38 percent total. The only region with a sharp incline is the United States, where the MMR increased more than 50 percent.
Breaking down the United States’s data by state or race reveals more shocking numbers. The MMR for non-Hispanic Black women is around 55 deaths for every 100,000 live births. Indiana, Georgia, and Louisiana have all recorded over 40 deaths per every 100,000 live births between 2011 and 2015.
The last update from Texas reported its MMR numbers at 34.5 deaths per every hundred-thousand live births. There is no denying that these numbers are terrible. Indiana’s maternal mortality rates are comparable to those in El Salvador, while Texas is close to Syria’s numbers. The chances of Black women in Louisiana dying of pregnancy-related causes pairs with those in Libya.
If that’s not bad enough, things will get worse. 13 states in the US banned close to all forms of abortion, with ten more considering making similar moves. Considering that many of these states listed are already experiencing some of the highest MMRs in the US, these numbers will continue to increase. Banning abortions doesn’t eliminate them; it merely pushes them underground, where they’re unsafe and will lead to even more deaths.
The rare legal exceptions and anti-abortion statutes can and will have more negative impacts and consequences on MMRs. New laws allow legal abortions if the mother’s life is at risk; they will also simultaneously threaten providers with harsh punishments in all of the other cases. The fear of making costly mistakes will cause healthcare providers to be understandably reluctant to intervene, except for the most clear-cut chances. Simply and sadly put, more deaths will result.
The Supreme Court’s recent reversal of the Roe vs. Wade case has been a huge political win for religious rights, which aligns the United States with other highly religious countries that have banned abortions.
While the United States is an incredibly developed part of the world, it remains one of the worst places to give birth in the world. Access to affordable insurance coverage, limitations to knowledge, and financial differences make pregnancy difficult in such a developed region. Some significant changes NEED to take place to protect mothers and families better. There is no reason so many mothers should be struggling at all!