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: Barbara McGuire for State Senate, LD 8

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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!

Portrait photograph of Barbara McGuire.[L]egislative District 8 is another of Arizona’s geographically expansive districts, reaching west to Maricopa, northeast to Globe, and south to Oracle and San Manuel. State Sen. Barbara McGuire has deep roots in this district, which gives her a practical and nuanced understanding of what her constituents want and need. As she seeks another term in the Arizona State Senate, she hopes to continue to advocate for the needs of rural Arizonans as well as a government that is “efficient, accountable, and responsive.”

Sen. McGuire took the time for an interview on September 25, 2014.

“Women’s health care needs are as individual as they are, and no one knows their issues and needs better than they do.”

How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

I am honored to have served two terms in the House and a term as a senator. I have always had the desire to make people’s lives better. My 25-plus years as a Salvation Army Unit director, along with my time served as a legislator, have given me the venue to do just that. On the policy side, I have witnessed and participated in halting harmful legislation, and promoting and sponsoring beneficial legislation. I am said to be the most bipartisan legislator at the state Capitol. To be effective, you have to find common ground and move forward from there. It is not a one-size-fits-all legislature by any means. I treasure the relationships I have built over the years, and it gives me hope that, in being well received on both sides of the aisle, we will be able to work together to solve the important issues Arizona will face in the coming years.

Last legislative session, you voted against HB 2284, which now permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. How do you explain to constituents the unique nature of abortion care and the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients?

If there is no guarantee of privacy then women will be hesitant to use these facilities and perhaps choose a path that may result in leaving them unable to have children in the future or even end in their death. Continue reading