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Two Women a Day Die Giving Birth in America -- and Many of These Deaths Can Be Prevented

While anti-choicers focus only on preventing access to a single procedure, women across the country are dying pointless deaths due to lack of access to proper care.

A damning new report from Amnesty International castigates the U.S. for dismal maternal mortality rates and a double standard of care that leaves racial minorities and lower-income women out in the cold. The report notes that nearly two women a day die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth--and many of these deaths could be prevented.  

"Mothers die not because the United States can't provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women," Amnesty International America's Executive Director Larry Cox said when the report's findings were released. Somehow this miserable trend hasn't gotten much attention from the anti-choicers who claim to only care about the preciousness of human life.

Pro-Life Only Until Birth

In the United States, where supposedly "pro-life" people make up around half the population, we're not very good at securing either end of the spectrum--looking out for women seeking family planning or those women about to start a family. And the political allies of the folks exhorting women to "choose life" have been fighting tooth and nail against  health reform that would improve access to insurance and care for pregnant women and young children.

On Tuesday night's episode of "The Good Wife" a pro-choice activist took the stand in a lawsuit against an insurance company that refused to pay for fetal surgery. The lawyer for the opposition mocked the woman's supposed hypocrisy in trying to save her own pregnancy while giving other women the choice to terminate theirs. While the character sputtered about fighting for all reproductive rights and then gave up and begged for a chance (thanks for the positive portrayal, network TV), she was absolutely correct about the connection between fighting for healthy pregnancies and fighting for abortion rights, two battles united under the reproductive justice umbrella. While anti-choicers focus only on preventing access to a single procedure, women across the country are dying pointless death due to lack of access to proper prenatal, birth and post-birth care. Among the chilling conclusions in  Amnesty International's report, titled "Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA":

• One in four women do not receive adequate prenatal care, starting in the first trimester. The number rises to about one in three for African American and Native American women. 

• Burdensome bureaucratic procedures in Medicaid enrollment substantially delay access to vital prenatal care for pregnant women seeking government-funded care.  

• A shortage of health care professionals is a serious obstacle to timely and adequate care, especially in rural areas and inner cities. In 2008, 64 million people were living in "shortage areas" for primary care (which includes maternal care).

The numbers are even more disturbing when put up against statistics in other nations: we are 40th in the world in lifetime risk of maternal death--essentially slumped at the bottom of the heap of industrialized countries. While those opposed to health care reform claim we have the greatest system in the world, they blatantly ignore the fact that thousands of patients aren't able to take advantage of that system--because of costs and also bureaucracy. 

"If you go to apply to the medicaid system, you need a 'proof of pregnancy' letter, with the due date, the date of your last period, and the gestational age of the baby," Jennie Joseph, a professional midwife from Florida told the report's authors. "Where do you get that kind of a letter? A doctor. If you have no Medicaid, how are you going to get to the doctor to get that letter?"