Global Maternal Mortality Drops, Afghanistan Has Highest Rate
The average rate at which mothers die during childbirth has dropped globally by approximately 40 percent since 1980, according to a study recently released by The Lancet, a European medical journal. Afghanistan ranked highest, as reported by a research team led by Christopher J.L. Murray at the University of Washington, with 1,575 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. Italy ranked lowest at an average of only 4 deaths, the United States' rate was 17, lagging behind other Western nations such as Canada's, which was 7 deaths for every 100,000 live births. The study, which analyzed the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in 181 countries, stated the global average in 2008 was 251 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, said The Washington Post.
The presence of a midwife or a physician at delivery would greatly reduce the risk of maternal or newborn death, reported The Washington Post, yet such professionals are present at only 50 percent of deliveries. 97 percent of maternal deaths occur in 68 countries, and less than 20 percent of these women are visited by a health worker and instructed in breast feeding and proper care. These women and their newborns are also often not assessed for infection. On the bright side, more than 80 percent of babies receive recommended immunizations.
According to The Lancet, the target of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5), launched 10 years ago, is to bring the MMR down by 75 percent by 2015, compared to the numbers in 1980. The report determined that "although only 23 countries are on track to achieve [the goal of a 75 percent decrease], countries such as Egypt, China, Ecuador, and Bolivia have been achieving accelerated progress." The Obama administration's Global Health Initiative will focus on the issue, and Norway will devote 35 percent of its foreign aid to maternal and newborn health, said The Washington Post.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed a committee during a meeting to refine the UN's Joint Action Plan, "The fact remains that one preventable maternal death is too many; hundreds of thousands are simply unacceptable - this, in the 21st century...Make no mistake, all of us must do more...For too long, maternal and child health has been at the back of the MDG train, but we know it can be the engine of development."
Media Resources: The Washington Post 4/14/10; The Lancet 4/12/10; Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Committee Meeting Remarks 4/14/10
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .