Maternal Mortality: A National Embarrassment

Americans spend more money on childbirth than any other country, but we’re not getting a good return on our investment.

Less than a century ago, approximately one mother died for every 100 live births — an occurrence so common that nearly everyone belonged to a family, or knew of one, that was devastated by such a loss. Fortunately, in most nations, those tragedies have declined over the years. In fact, in the decade between 2003 and 2013, only eight countries saw their maternal mortality rates rise.

Unfortunately, the United States was one of those eight countries, joining a club that also includes Afghanistan and South Sudan. Within the 31 industrialized countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an American woman is more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than a citizen of any other country besides Mexico. Among developed countries, the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates — and those rates are only getting worse.

Graph: CDC

U.S. maternal mortality has attracted the attention of organizations whose oversight you wouldn’t expect. Amnesty International, which most Americans associate with the fight against human rights abuses in far-flung authoritarian regimes, considers our high maternal mortality rates to be a violation of human rights. Additionally — and pathetically — one of the biggest sources of funding for maternal health in the United States comes not from taxpayers but from the pharmaceutical company Merck. The Economist quoted a Merck spokesperson as saying, “We expected to be doing all our work in developing countries.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Aaron Marquez for State Senator, LD 27

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.”  Make your voice heard in 2014!

Aaron Marquez is running for the Arizona State Senate in Legislative District 27, a district that encompasses part of Central Phoenix as well as the communities of Guadalupe, South Mountain, and Laveen. Mr. Marquez has focused his campaign on the idea of building bridges — in the form of strengthening education and the economy — for a stronger Arizona.

Mr. Marquez faces primary opposition from current House Rep. Catherine Miranda, who has a voting record in the legislature that clearly shows she does not support women’s health issues or the ability for Arizonans to make their own health care decisions.

Mr. Marquez was kind enough to take the time for this telephone interview, transcribed below, on July 23, 2014.


“I just want to make sure that the Arizona my daughter grows up in is an Arizona that always respects women.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I was raised in Arizona. I had a single mom and an older sister who were both very influential in raising me. I went through K-12 public schools in Arizona.

I started at the University of Arizona, but something important happened that first semester of college, for me and for the country — 9/11 happened. I realized I wanted to find a way to serve the country. I tried to get into the Army at that point but ended up being medically disqualified due to childhood asthma.

I looked for other options to serve and discovered the AmeriCorps program. I ended up moving to Boston as an AmeriCorps volunteer to work in inner city schools. I did that for two years, running tutoring programs and learning programs for middle and high school students.

Then I took a third year off of school — my folks thought I was never going back to college — to work for the Kerry campaign in 2004. I realized, after two years of giving community service full time, that political service and governance is how you effect the most change for the most amount of people. If good people don’t run for public office, then you have people who poorly represent our country and our state and — in my particular race — in District 27. Continue reading