Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maternal and Infant Mortality: The Bitter Fruit of Right Wing Resistance To Health Care Reform

When I started this blog, before I went astray, I hoped to continually point out the connection between virulent right wing policies and (often tragic) outcomes among people. As they say, back to the roots.

Amnesty International has issued a report - Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the U.S.A. - showing that the maternal death rate during and immediately after giving birth in the United States has doubled in the last 20 years. (On the local level, New York State ranks 47th of 50 states on the negative side of this troubling statistic.) In 1987, the rate was 6.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Today it is close to 14 per 100,000.

The likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain. Greece has the lowest rate at 1 death per 100,000 births, a number that probably represents an absolute achievement. Many things may be wrong with Greece economically at the moment; this isn't one of them.

The United States ranks 40th in the world in this category in spite of the fact that we spend more on health care than any other country. Women in America suffer 2 to 3 deaths per DAY while giving birth, or about 9,000 deaths per year. Another 34,000 experience what Amnesty calls "near misses," meaning that new mothers come close to dying during the birth and immediate postpartum period.

African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. This disparity has not improved in more than 27 years.

As bad, according to the U.S. census, the infant mortality rate here is 630 per 100,000 births (6.3 per 1,000). Even more shockingly, the District of Columbia's rate is 14 deaths per 1,000 births. Right in the shadow of the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court.

A few things that Health Care Reform was designed to address? Prenatal care, nutrition, prevention, and pre-existing conditions. Additional access to mental health and drug and alcohol addiction services is also built in.

Of course, the right wing, in its infinite wisdom, in its cynical pomposity, in its reckless disregard of the lives of actual living human beings as opposed to fetuses - potential but not actual human beings - made sure that provisions for abortion at any stage of gestation were deprived of funding. And funding for birth control for minors is severely restricted. (In fact only half of the states currently have options for free birth control, and under the new legislation states will still have a "veto" over providing free birth control and even birth control information to minors without parental consent.)

How many deaths are attributable to such restrictions?

We know that the younger a female is the more likely it is that she and/or her baby will have complications. (We also know that there is another set of risks for women over 40.) Women and girls under 20 account for about 8% of all births in the United States. These 8% of births account for about 38% of all maternal and infant deaths at or shortly after delivery.

Impoverished women account for about 61% of such deaths.

We hope that better prenatal care and nutrition will help to some degree.

Free access to birth control and early and mid-term abortions, however, is crucial to saving the lives of these women and girls, and would save the lives of those babies being born in less than dangerous circumstances.

This can only be blamed on the fanatical religious right wing who insist on enshrining their rigid beliefs on an altar upon which drips the blood of thousands of young, poor women and their new babies. An ounce of prevention...

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”
                     - Martin Luther King

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