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Op-Ed: Public Policy To Blame for Rising Maternal Mortality Rate in U.S.

Op-Ed: Public Policy To Blame for Rising Maternal Mortality Rate in U.S.

May 22, 2014 — The "tragic trend" of increasing maternal mortality in the U.S. is a "clear matter of public choice," writes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, in a Kansas City Star opinion piece.

Reich adds that while researchers "aren't sure what's happening" to cause the increase, they are "almost unanimous in pointing to a lack of access to health care, coupled with rising levels of poverty."

One problem is that women are "dying during pregnancy and childbirth from health problems they had before they became pregnant but worsened because of the pregnancies -- such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease" -- suggesting that the women "didn't get adequate health care before they became pregnant," Reich argues.

Other women "are dying because they didn't have the means to prevent a pregnancy they shouldn't have had, or they didn't get the prenatal care they needed during their pregnancies," which points to "a different sort of inadequate health care," Reich writes.

Reich cites a study that found that "U.S. states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77 percent higher than states with lower levels of poverty."

He notes that "[m]any of these high-poverty states are among the 21 that have so far refused to expand Medicaid" under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and that several of them "have also cut family planning, restricted abortions and shuttered women's health clinics."

"Ideology is trumping the health needs of millions of Americans," Reich writes, concluding that "[t]hese polices are literally killing women," (Reich, Kansas City Star, 5/20).