Congress Must Prioritize Combating Maternal Mortality

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By Heather Lasher, Demand Dignity Campaigner

It’s 2011, a new year, a chance for new beginnings.  But not everyone will have a get to experience the excitement of the new year.  In the short time that has passed since we watched the ball drop in Times Square earlier this week, more than 5,000 women have died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth – one woman every 90 seconds, 1,000 women every day.

A continued lack of attention to maternal health takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and girls each year, and denies countless others their dignity.  In Sierra Leone, for example, one out of every 21 women will die during pregnancy or childbirth.  Here in the United States, women face a greater lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications than do women in 49 other countries, and African-American women are nearly four times as likely to die as are Caucasian women.

The death of women in pregnancy and childbirth is not just a public health emergency, it is a human rights crisis.  The United States can, and should, play a role in responding.

Last year, congressional champions introduced legislation – like the Global MOMS Act and the MOMS for the 21st Century Act – to expand access to quality maternal health care and remove barriers to care.  This week, a new Congress convened in Washington, with a new agenda.  It’s now up to us to remind our legislators that the crisis of maternal mortality will not go away on its own; it requires their commitment to action.

Help ensure that maternal mortality ranks high on Congress’ list of priorities.  Demand that our congressional leaders pass legislation to combat maternal mortality at home and around the world.

MOMS for the 21st Century

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Amnesty International’s pathbreaking report, Deadly Delivery, documented the maternal health care crisis in the United States: women in the United States have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related causes than women in 40 other countries, with African-American women dying at an almost four times greater rate than Caucasian women.

As Amnesty’s Mother’s Day briefing on Capitol Hill showed, legislators recognize the urgency of this issue and are responding.

Today, one of those champions is stepping up and introducing a vital new piece of legislation. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s (D-CA) “MOMS for the 21st Century Act” would:

  • Strengthen a geographically and racially diverse maternal health care workforce
  • Improve research and data collection on maternal health care, including identifying health professional shortage areas and promoting evidence based maternal care
  • Elevate and coordinate work on maternal health care within the Department of Health and Human Services

Amnesty International is proud to enthusiastically support the bill. The MOMS for the 21st Century Act is the first in a series of legislative initiatives that we’re working on — stay tuned for more news in the weeks to come!

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