U.S. Health Law May Curb Rising Maternal Deaths

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America’s mothers are dying in increasing numbers. The U.S. had the highest rate of maternal mortality of all developed nations in 2009 with 16.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, an increase from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Definitive answers to why the U.S. maternal mortality rate continues to increase are lacking. According to a 2010 Amnesty International report the U.S. “spends more on health care than any other country and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care.”

The higher risk of death has been attributed to race, income, region, C-section rates, obesity-related problems, and chronic disease. However, chronic health problems do not account for the maternal mortality difference between white, African American, and Hispanic women. Moreover, African American women are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy than other American women regardless of income and education. There is international consensus that maternal deaths are almost entirely preventable. New health care laws could contribute to reversing the increase in maternal deaths by improving preventative care for pregnant women.

Maternal mortality in the US has received some corporate media coverage.  However, stories in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, for example, have tended to emphasize how access to contraception would reduce maternal and infant mortality, without addressing the broader, comparative issues highlighted by Malena Amusa for Women’s eNews.



Malena Amusa, “Let’s Raise the Volume on Maternal Mortality in U.S.,” Women’s eNews, July, 26 2012, http://womensenews.org/story/sisterspace/120726/lets-raise-the-volume-maternal-mortality-in-us.


Student Researcher: Briana Gladstern (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)