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Mother and Daughter

We need to talk about maternal mortality. The United States has a staggeringly high incidence of it. We have the highest rate in the developed world and are the only country where that rate has risen in recent years, even as it has fallen in every comparable nation. The only other countries where the rate is rising are Afghanistan and Sudan. This is not a club the United States should be in.

This should be a national scandal. Nobody should be indifferent to the problem of women dying during or soon after giving birth.

It’s a complicated issue, but some of the policy options that would help are very obvious. There is now an entire organization that has as its mission the goal of reducing maternal mortality in the United States. Individual hospitals or whole states may join AIM, or the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health.

But of course, this is a political issue, since Republicans want to make everything political. In that state full of pesky liberals, California, the pesky liberals did what pesky liberals will do — they noticed a problem then went about studying the problem, found causes, and set about eliminating those causes.

Much to the consternation of good “conservatives,” the very liberal California is the one state where the rate of maternal mortality has decreased in recent years. That annoying social engineering at work. The success in California helped spark the move to create AIM.

But Republicans in state legislatures are more interested in denying women their right to bodily autonomy that in trying to reduce maternal mortality. For “conservatives,” women are only useful if they’re having babies, so women who die doing so are not much of a concern. They’re no longer any use, but they also no longer take up any space or use any other resource, so who cares?

Black Lives Matter

What makes this an even more politically fraught issue is the fact that this problem is much worse for African American than for white mothers. That is, the racism that pervades our society shows up, unsurprisingly, in maternal mortality.

This is an issue government can and should address. Members of the House of Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-NC) have formed the Black Maternal Health Caucus to examine the problem and look for solutions.

Again, this should not be a political issue. It will be interesting to see how Republicans react to any legislation that has the purpose of improving outcomes for African American mothers. Will they fall back on their pathetic allegation that anyone who points up a racial disparity is “the real racist”?

Will they point to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and whine, as “conservatives” love to do, about the implicit reference to Black Lives Matter?

Will they use their unnecessary, irresponsible tax cut as a cheap excuse to do nothing?

Democrats should bruit this issue to the heavens. What reasonable human could object to any initiative that aims reasonably to reduce the maternal mortality rate and the gross racial disparity in the maternal mortality rate? Let them stand up and state their position. They will not be popular.

Maternal mortality is a national scandal in the United States. Reducing it should be a first priority for all of us, especially elected officials.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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