Republicans and conservatives love touting American exceptionalism that in recent years has taken some devastating and eye-opening direct hits disproving claims that this country is anything but exceptional. Oh it is true America is number one in gun ownership and gun-related deaths, defense spending, greatest income inequality, and most citizens incarcerated, but in every other category America lags behind most other developed nation on Earth and even some still-developing countries. To assert America is barely mediocre is even is a stretch and something to aspire to, but at best it is wishful thinking. The latest news that America reached parity with countries such as Iran, Romania, and is twice as bad as Saudi Arabia and China is a serious pox on the reputation of richest nation on Earth, but it certainly warmed the black hearts of Republicans and particularly evangelical fundamentalists.
There were two reports out last week from a highly respected medical journal and an international organization that revealed America is a dangerous place to be an expectant mother, and for women-hating Republicans and Christian extremists it was welcomed news and a sign their anti-women efforts are a raging success. According to Save the Children’s list of best places to be a mother; “America plummeted from 6th place to 31st out of 178 countries” within a decade. The president and CEO of Save the Children announced that “In the U.S., the lifetime risk of maternal death has risen more than 50 percent since we launched our first report in 2000 — from 1 in 3,700 to 1 in 2,400. Today, an American woman faces the same lifetime risk of maternal death as a woman in Iran or Romania.”
However, that was not the only news Republicans and Christians celebrated because according to one of the most widely-respected health research journals on the planet, The Lancet, “the United States of America now ranks 60th out of 180 countries on maternal deaths occurring during pregnancy and childbirth.” That puts American women giving birth in the unenviable position as being twice as likely to die giving birth as women in Saudi Arabia or China. The sad facts are that for every 100,000 births in America just last year, 18.5 women died compared to 8.2 women who died during pregnancy and birth in Canada, 6.1 in Britain, and only 2.4 in Iceland; three countries boasting universal healthcare Republicans decry as “inferior socialized medicine.”
To get an accurate portrayal of the increasing danger to expectant mothers in the richest country on Earth compared to other nations, while America’s maternal death rate is climbing, the rate has dropped in in nearly all other nations. In fact, there are only eight countries with a rising mortality rate that puts America in a league with Belize, El Salvador, Afghanistan, and South Sudan; some of the poorest nations on the planet. It is worth noting, too, that America has been measuring the rate of maternal deaths the same way for decades so Republicans cannot claim the numbers are being manipulated, but it is probable that they are too busy celebrating with personhood and fetal-enamored evangelical pro-life advocates to take time to comment on the success of their anti-women handiwork.
There is a misperception that increased maternal mortality rates are due to younger girls becoming pregnant where childbirth and pregnancy is more dangerous, but the data show that the biggest rise is in the 20-24 age group. Researchers are almost unanimous in citing the lack of access to health care coupled with rising levels of poverty as the culprit to rising maternal mortality rates. Although lacking access to pre-natal care is a major contributing factor, a large number of women perish during pregnancy and childbirth due to pre-existing health issues before becoming pregnant that were exacerbated because they were carrying a fetus draining their body’s life-force. To make sure poor women suffering from undiagnosed and untreated diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease that are stressful enough without a parasitic fetus adding unnecessary stress to a woman’s body, Republicans cut funding for family planning (contraception and health screening) to prohibit poor women’s access to the means to prevent a pregnancy they should not have had in the first place.
Republicans and extremist Christian’s solution is restrict access to healthcare that would diagnose and treat existing health problems, prohibit access to contraception, close down women’s and expectant mother clinics, and if it is a former Confederate state, reject free Medicaid expansion to prevent poor women from having access to any healthcare. According to a study by the Roosevelt Institute, states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77% higher than states with lower levels of poverty, and women without health insurance are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than women who are insured. For women without prior health issues Christian Republicans have blocked access to prenatal care that every woman, rich or poor, requires to enhance their chance of a safe pregnancy and childbirth.
The two sickening reports were good news to conservative Christians and their Republican facilitators who worked diligently over the past three years to put an end to family planning agencies such as Planned Parenthood, closed countless women’s health clinics in Republican states, restricted access to abortion services, slashed funding for aid to expectant mothers, and rejected Medicaid expansion to prohibit poor women gaining from access to healthcare. One of the overriding, and hardly discussed, reasons behind Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act was its expanded coverage for women’s health and maternity services, including the provision forbidding higher premiums for women just because they are women. In fact, one of the reasons evangelical maniacs like Hobby Lobby are fighting to prevent women’s access to contraceptives is because extremist personhood advocates love a fetus but hate the woman carrying it and blocking access to contraception, closing women’s clinics and family planning agencies like Planned Parenthood provides the religious right with more fetal love to accompany more unhealthy mothers. It is a win-win situation for conservative Christians and Republicans who believe fetal rights trump those of the woman carrying the developing organism. Draconian cuts to services for expectant mothers coupled with inaccessibility to birth control and healthcare is finally producing the results religious right Republicans have long sought to achieve.
Add to the Christian Republicans closing down access to family planning, women’s health clinics, and pre-natal care the former Confederate GOP states deliberately promoting poverty due to slave wages, job-killing tax cuts for the rich, and rejecting Medicaid expansion due to ideological, and not fiscal reasons, and they have created the conditions that are killing off women at a rate closer to that of war-ravaged Afghanistan than the richest nation on Earth. What Americans can take away from another report condemning America as a declining second-rate nation is that like America’s high child poverty, infant mortality, and now maternal mortality rates rivaling third-world nations is that Republicans hate, in equal amounts children, infants, and expectant mothers nearly as much as they love a fetus; until it breathes air and becomes a human being.