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For U.S. Mothers, Conservative Policies Can Be Deadly

Memo Pad Politics

For U.S. Mothers, Conservative Policies Can Be Deadly


This post is the first in the Roosevelt Institute’s National Women’s Health Week series, which will address pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a look at why conservative policies at the state level are leading to increased maternal mortality rates.

For much of the last decade, maternal mortality rates (MMRs) have declined globally. But in the United States, they have consistently increased and are now at one of the highest points in the last 25 years. If conservatives have their way with social and economic policy, it’s unlikely the U.S. will make significant strides to improve the health of mothers in the near future.

According to a report released last week in the The Lancet, the U.S. now ranks 60th out of 180 countries for maternal deaths. China is number 57. Only seven other countries experienced an increase in MMR over the past 10 years. They include Greece, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. The report estimates that for every 100,000 births, 18.5 mothers die in the U.S. By comparison, 13.5 women die in Iran, 6.1 in the United Kingdom, and only 2.4 in Iceland.

It is no coincidence that the U.S. MMR has increased as poverty rates have steadily climbed. In 2010, Amnesty International released a report that showed women living in the lowest-income areas were twice as likely to suffer a maternal death. States with high rates of poverty were found to have MMRs 77 percent higher than states with fewer residents living below the federal poverty level. Women of color have poverty rates more than double those of white women, and black women are 3-4 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

The numerous factors that contribute to the high U.S. MMR are complex, as are the solutions required to effectively address the problem. However, one solution is already in place and is working. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will significantly improve maternal health by mandating coverage of pre-natal, maternity, and post-partum care in all insurance plans. But some of the women in greatest need will remain uninsured and at increased risk because of the refusal of 21 states to expand Medicaid. Many of those states have among the nation’s highest rates of poverty and maternal mortality.

Expanding Medicaid would save women’s lives. A 2010 study conducted in New York City showed that the MMR for women with no insurance was approximately four times higher than for insured women, and that the rate for women insured by Medicaid was comparable to that of women with private insurance.



  1. tdm3624 May 12, 2014

    I understand why some conservatives are against abortion, I really do. But, just because one is against abortion shouldn’t mean an all out attack on women’s access to health in general.

  2. Paul Bass May 12, 2014

    The point is that these poor women would likely vote democratic, so why would the red state republican governors and politicians care if these women die?

  3. 4sanity4all May 12, 2014

    These are facts, but I doubt that they will touch the hearts of Republicans in the states that refuse to expand Medicaid. The reasons they give for their refusal make no sense, because the federal government is bearing all, then most, of the cost. And it is every legislator’s job to bring as many tax dollars back to his/her state as possible. I cannot imagine why even one woman would vote for a politician would deprive her of health care on which her life, literally, depends.

    1. jointerjohn May 13, 2014

      Touch the hearts of republicans? You’d have better luck finding toes on a fish.

  4. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh May 13, 2014

    As individuals, we are judged by other individuals. As a society, we are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable. In the latter, we fail. This is thanks to the Conservatives and their combination of cost cutting and imposed morality.
    1. They wish to deny women the right to terminate a pregnancy (ok, have an abortion) even if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest (which cannot happen according to them), or if carrying the child to term could endanger the life of the mother and child. However, they also wish to deny mothers the pre-natal care they need to successfully carry a child to term. Add to that, they wish to deny women access to birth control that is not only use to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also can help regulate their menstrual cycles, prevent migraines, and maintain hormonal balance.
    2. Once the child is born, they seek to deny medical care and vaccinations, and refuse to fund pre-school programs that will give the children a boost towards further education. Add to that, they also try to remove funding needed for school programs that enrich the children’s educational experience. Consider this – 50 years ago, when I finishing 4th Grade, we still were using History books that showed the Philippines and Cuba as US Protectorates!
    3. They seek to change Social Security and Medicare into programs that only the wealthy can participate in, add increased co-payments they cannot afford for medication they desperately need.
    4. They seek to deny that GIs returning from close to 13 years of continuous rotation into combat may have PTSD, reduce funding for the VA and the DoD Medical facilities, then show fake horror at the possibility that someone may be put on a wait list for care! Gimme a break!

    Unfortunately, today’s conservatives remind us very much of the proverbial comment by Marie Antoinette – “If they have no bread to eat, then let them eat cake!” A more modern translation could be, I don’t understand why all these people claim they have financial problems. My rich friends who donate lavishly to my reelection don’t have them!

    1. Allan Richardson May 13, 2014

      Basically, in terms of the well known parable of Jesus, they are Levites, not Samaritans. And they condemn the Samaritans for being foreign and having the “wrong” religion, even, or especially, when Samaritans try to do good!

  5. Susan Dean May 13, 2014

    The GOP’s family values in action.

  6. dana becker May 14, 2014

    Sounds like the Republican policies are working nicely. They will have less Democrats voting. Good job.

  7. tobewan May 14, 2014

    To gain better conditions, the women need to vote Democratic! It is silly and useless to stand with signs against the Elephant people who currently couldn’t care less. They want to turn times back 300 years or more. Let’s show them those times are undesirable.

  8. dpaano May 20, 2014

    Gives us a GOOD reason why women need to get out and vote, especially to vote out these conservatives that want to decimate the female population in the U.S.! I AM outraged!!! And, I can only hope that more and more women are also!


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