*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
America leads the world in many areas and some of those are worthy of praise and pride. This country is the richest in the world, has the most powerful military ever, and is “kind of” a representative democracy. However awesome those leadership positions are, they hardly outweigh some damning humanistic failures that should never occur in a nation drowning in wealth. It is because the most of the nation’s wealth is concentrated in the top one percent of the population that America ranks near the top of child poverty and hunger, an inordinate percentage of the working population barely survives week to week, the infant mortality rate is higher than all developed nations, and now the maternal mortality rate is higher than all but one nation among developed countries.
Maternal mortality as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is:
“The death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management; but not from accidental or incidental causes.”
Worldwide the maternal mortality rate was so alarmingly high that the United Nations Millennium Development Goal instituted a planet wide drive to reduce the rate by 75 percent from 1990 and 2015. It is unfortunate that the U.N. Organization failed to meet its lofty goal, but 157 nations did achieve a decrease of 50 percent between 2000 and 2013. In fact, every country in a comprehensive study had remarkable decreases except for the richest and most powerful nation on the planet. Republicans and their religious right facilitators are likely celebrating that America ranked 30th among 31 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, barely beating out Mexico for the bottom spot.
According to what’s being hailed as “a disturbing new study of vital statistics,” researchers found that the maternal mortality rate from 2000 to 2014 “for 48 states and the District of Columbia rose by 26.6 percent.” Only one state had a serious reduction in the maternal mortality rate: Democratically controlled California where religious Republican attempts to abolish women’s access to reproductive healthcare has been stopped in its tracks.
Sadly, since America failed to publish the horrific statistics, an important study, “Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate” appeared in the highly regard and peer-reviewed journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology. The authors believe the “actual maternal mortality rate in the United States may well have been higher than previously thought due to a Centers for Disease Control question related to pregnancy on standard death certificates.
In a separate part of the study focusing on Texas, the researchers revealed that there was a monumental “surge” in the mortality rate from 2010 to 2012 that did not occur in any of the 49 other states. While some of the researchers refrained from speculating on the cause of the doubling of maternal deaths, there is certainly a correlation between Texas policies on women’s health and the extra deaths. As Laura Bassett noted in the Huffington Post:
“The rise in pregnancy-related deaths coincided with [Republican] lawmakers slashing family planning funds by 66 percent in the state budget in 2011. The [Republican] cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and left Texas’ women’s health program able to serve less than half as many women as it had previously served. Low-income women in particular had less access to affordable birth control and thus had more babies, according to a [February] report by the Los Angeles Times.”
So there is the legendary Texas’ “pro-life” Republicans’ great achievement that women’s healthcare advocates have been screaming about: withholding healthcare that is beyond a doubt killing women in the name of Christianity. Of course “the faithful” will be apoplectic that anyone dares blame “America’s religion” driving the pro-life movement for killing off women for a fetus, but they cannot possibly deny that every dastardly attack on women’s reproductive health is driven by religion; not the Christian bible, but a bastardized version of Christianity with absolutely no basis in scripture. The evangelicals know it, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) know it, and it’s relatively certain that Republicans know it; but they need a cause célèbre to garner evangelical electoral support and championing a fetus is their “BIG issue.” But remember or take note: the almighty god of the Christian bible said more than once in Old Testament scripture that there is no such thing as a living being until it breathes air; a scriptural based fact Republicans and their pro-life religious right maniacs refuse to acknowledge because it proves they are religious liars.
Religious Republicans constantly complain that the secular Constitution, specifically that nasty 1st Amendment, prohibits them from putting god in the “public forum,” a term that is code for government, legislation and the law of the land. But there is a damn good reason the Founding Fathers and Constitution’s framers refused to ever allow religion in government or god in the public forum or to drive legislation – people will die. And in this instance women are dying for the religious right’s hypocritical “pro-life” agenda, an agenda solely driven by ‘pro-life’ religious Republican legislation in blatant defiance of the United States Constitution.
This has been an extraordinarily bad and embarrassing year for America no matter how one assesses the current state of affairs. Republicans elevated a bigoted fascist as their standard bearer and now while the rest of the world reduced its maternal mortality rate by half, America’s mortality rate rose by over a quarter. It certainly puts a different light on “American exceptionalism” than one would consider admirable, but for religious Republicans, killing off living breathing women is an admirable achievement if they think they’re protecting a non-breathing fetus.