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Maternity Care in a “Majority Minority” Country

10:22 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Miriam Pérez for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Two weeks ago the news from the Census Bureau that non-white children make up the majority of those under the age of one year created a firestorm of media headlines across the nation. These demographic shifts have many implications for our nation, but my first thought was this: The majority of the babies being born in the US are now at serious risk for a whole host of maternal, fetal, and infant health problems.

A baby being delivered.

Photo by Crystal Marie Lopez.

Why? Because women of color have significantly higher rates of pre-term birth, low-infant birth weight, maternal, and fetal mortality.

Race-based maternal health disparities are no longer a concern of the minority — they are a concern of the majority. And they should be a top priority. According to Amnesty International’s 2010 report, African American women are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women, a rate that has not improved in over 20 years. Data from 2008 showed that African American women also had an infant mortality rate that was twice that of white women. While only comprising 16 percent of births, African-American women experienced 30.4 percent of the infant deaths.

Similar statistics and disparities exist for Native American women, Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinas to varying degrees — but with few exceptions, the rates for all these groups are higher than for white women. The United States lags behind 49 other countries in our maternal mortality rates, and 40 other countries in our infant mortality rates, a fact that was reiterated in an article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The piece was a profile of Ina May Gaskin, famous for her work promoting out of hospital birth as a midwife in rural Tennessee. What the article neglected to talk about, however, was maternal health disparities for women of color.

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Women’s Reproductive Rights Under Threat in Colombia

10:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Hanna Hindstrom for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from The Women’s News Network (WNN).

Photobucket

At 11 years of age, Nina was raped by her stepfather. Traumatized and pregnant, she sought an abortion. But every doctor she met claimed conscientious objection and refused. She was forced to travel 35 miles to another city, where she eventually tracked down an obstetrician willing to help.

She was one of the lucky ones.

Despite a landmark ruling five years ago – when Colombia’s Constitutional Court decriminalized abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality or to save the mother’s life – less than 0.5 percent of procedures are carried out legally each year. Many doctors simply turn girls like Nina away.

There is endemic confusion about the status of the law, especially the rules for conscientious objection, coupled with a widespread reluctance to obey it. Unsafe abortion remains the third leading cause of maternal deaths in a country where, according to government figures, over 300,000 take place each year.

Upon its inception the law has been the target of an aggressive anti-choice campaign, led by conservative political forces and supported by the Catholic Church. These forces are now threatening to unravel the little progress made.

Since coming into office in 2009, the Procurador-General, Alejandro Ordonez – the official appointed to protect the constitution and promote human rights – has led a vociferous campaign to dismantle the legislation. Read the rest of this entry →