For example, according to one report, there are 26.4 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the United States. The rate is more than double that in Britain, which is the developed nation with the second highest maternal mortality rate. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate, and the trend is only increasing. This issue is most apparent in the state of Texas which is experiencing a rapid increase in these deaths.
At the center of the crisis are African-American women. Vital statistics show that the maternal mortality rate for them has spiked 87 percent. In 2012, 148 Texas women died due to pregnancy-related complications. Of these deaths, African-American women represented the largest percentage. The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force report states that African-American women made up 20 percent of maternal deaths despite representing only 11 percent percent of births between 2012 to 2015.
Adding to the crisis is that in recent years, one study published by the journal Birth argued that the Texas maternal death rates were inflated due to misreporting. Although the exact rate remains contentious among researchers and experts, consensus is that maternal deaths in the United States and Texas in particular are increasing and that African American women represent a large portion of these deaths.
As Lisa Hollier of the Task Force stated in an interview with the Texas Tribune: “I think the rate is likely rising based on the best information that we have right now.” She continued: “I think that having any maternal deaths that are preventable is too many. So yes, I think that when we’re able to present a complete picture of what maternal mortality looks like in Texas, the rate will be too high. The rate of preventable maternal death will be too high.”
More so, the study released by Birth concludes: “The large and persistent racial and ethnic disparities, warrant concerted actions by clinicians and policy makers.”
Childbirth, pregnancy, and healthcare in the U.S.
What the maternal mortality rate and alleged botched data reveal are a myriad of serious problems within the U.S. healthcare system. The United States does not place healthcare, let alone maternal health, as a priority. A case in point is that the data on maternal deaths exemplify bad healthcare-related record keeping in the United States. It is important to point out that even though the maternal mortality rate is steadily increasing, record keeping and research of those deaths remains flawed and underfunded by the United States’ federal government. Something as simple as checkboxes on death certificates identifying a death as being pregnancy-related are a recent development not introduced until 2003.
With maternal deaths on the rise and ineffective data collection, the U.S. government has not released an updated national data report on maternal deaths since 2007.
In an interview, Stacie Geller— a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine— stated that “Our maternal data is embarrassing. Maternal health in the U.S. is simply still not a priority. It’s not interesting. Preventable maternal deaths are not in the basement of our priorities; they are in the sub-basement.”
The reality, therefore, is horrifying. In conjunction with deep social cuts to healthcare and social safety nets like Medicaid, even accurate data collection is just another resource unavailable to the working class.
Too little, too late
During 2011-2012, as Texas saw a spike in maternal deaths, its lawmakers were passing anti-woman legislation. In 2011, Texas cut the state’s family planning budget from $111 million to $37.9 million. Soon after, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers were excluded from Medicaid’s Women’s Health Program federal funding.
The folly of capitalism is apparent in recent developments in Texas regarding counteractive measures against maternal deaths. Right now, a small collection of non-profit groups, various health organizations and hospitals are attempting to address maternal mortality factors. The efforts are positive and admirable. For example, local entities have recently introduced a new set of guidelines to treat pregnant women at risk for hemorrhage, hypertension and opioid abuse. Nonetheless, in the same way that poverty relies on sporadic charity under capitalism, maternal deaths reduction relying on small investments and small local entities is not enough.
Texas lawmakers’ response to the maternal mortality crisis has been of duplicitous concern without any real effort. After much controversy, Texas governor Greg Abbott said he was “committed to doing everything we can to combat the maternal mortality rate.” He has, however, continually ignored healthcare experts’ suggestions and derailed any real solutions. Lawmakers also continue to only fund maternal mortality research despite experts’ suggestions that the most immediate way to tackle the issue was with accessible healthcare. Along with maternal mortality rates, Texas also has the highest rate of uninsured people. Texas legislators and politicians have rejected any attempts to expand Medicaid despite strong support from their constituents.
Maternal mortality under socialism
Despite politicians and lawmaker’s ploys to spin the issue of Texas maternal mortality as nothing but a mysterious predicament, one truth is certain: access to food, shelter and healthcare is necessary for maternal mortality prevention. Cuba’s outstanding success by using this method is a case in point.
Cuba is a socialist and underdeveloped country which guarantees the necessities listed above. It maintains a lower maternal death rate than both the United States and Canada. While the rate continues to climb in the U.S., Cuba’s maternal mortality rate is steadily declining. One report showed that there are five deaths for every 1,000 births. Cuba has been able to accomplish this because of it commitment to humanitarian socialism. World renowned for its healthcare, Cuba provides its people with free preventative medicine and services.
Capitalism is incapable—unwilling—to address maternal mortality. Indeed, capitalists are very willing for maternal mortality trends to continue. The capitalist U.S. is the wealthiest nation in the world with the highest maternal mortality rate. This is no accident. U. S. capitalists refuse to fund preventative measures against maternal deaths.
Providing healthcare for all requires, in part, breaking away from the two-party system, which ultimately protects corporate interests. Only under socialism can healthcare serve the needs of the working class.