Tell Congress: Pass Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011

On Sunday you called your mom. Today, call on your elected officials to protect maternal health.

This Wednesday, May 11, a Mother’s Day briefing on Capitol Hill will shine a light on the maternal health care crisis in the United States. Featured guest Christy Turlington Burns, maternal health advocate and director of No Woman No Cry, will join Amnesty International researcher Nan Strauss and others to advocate for the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.

Drafted to address some of the most pressing recommendations in Amnesty International’s report on maternal mortality in the US, Deadly Delivery, this innovative bipartisan legislation would:


Why Midwives And Maternal Health Need To Go Hand-In-Hand

On the International Day of the Midwife, we have a guest post from Jennie Joseph, a midwife in Winter Garden Florida. Jennie is owner and clinical director of The Birth Place, a full-service midwifery clinic and birth center and developer of the JJ Way, a midwifery curriculum geared toward eliminating disparities. She is featured in Christy Turlington Burns’s documentary “No Woman No Cry” that we blogged about yesterday.

Talk is cheap! But right now talk is also becoming effective! When it comes to mothers and babies it appears that recent talk is finally leading to action. Thanks to social networking I am beginning to hear talk from ‘the grassroots’ about the state of maternal and infant health and the need for a drastic change.  If we are ever going to be able to do better than ranking 50th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, then let’s keep talking.


MOMS for the 21st Century

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!

Posted in USA

Buzz on the Hill: Maternal Health Briefing

On April 14th, 2010, over 60 hill staff and concerned activists came out for a congressional health briefing titled “Does the New Health Care Reform Law Address Barriers Women Face When Seeking Maternal Health Care?” hosted by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary. At the request of Chairman Conyers, the briefing featured our very own Nan Strauss, Amnesty International USA’s lead researcher on our most recent report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis, as well as two Congressional Research Service (CRS) specialists on Medicaid.

Nan’s compelling presentation on the maternal health care crisis highlighted that while significantly needed strides were made with the passage of health care reform, the magnitude of the maternal health crisis in the U.S. continues to claim the lives of 2 – 3 women every day. Using individual stories as well as global statistics, Nan explained that in the United States:

  • Two to three women die every day of complications resulting from pregnancy or childbirth
  • Maternal deaths in the US are more likely than in 40 other countries
  • Black women are nearly four times more likely to die than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, these disparities increase dramatically
  • Many inner city hospitals are chronically understaffed. Again, women of color are more likely to seek care at understaffed hospitals than white women
  • Nearly half of maternal deaths and ‘near-misses’ could have been prevented with better access to good quality maternal health care
  • Although health care reform has many provisions that will help women, such as ending discriminatory insurance practices based upon ‘pre-existing conditions,’ many of the underlying conditions responsible for the appalling rates of maternal deaths in the US, continue to exist

As the next step after health care reform, she said, Amnesty International is calling for the establishment of an Office of Maternal Health within the Department of Health and Human Services.

You can take action here by writing to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and asking her to work with President Obama to establish an Office of Maternal Health.

Mona Luxion contributed to this post.

Mapping the U.S. Maternal Health Care Crisis

AGM Countdown: In the run up to Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting in New Orleans this weekend, the Science for Human Rights program will be posting new blog entries throughout the week. All of the projects presented this week—and many more—will be on display in New Orleans.

On March 12, 2010, we released Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA, our groundbreaking report on maternal health in the United States. Deadly Delivery lays out a clear case for the ways in which the U.S. health system is broken, and how we can fix it to fulfill the right of all women to maternal health.

Map of US maternal mortality ratios, based on information in Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA. © Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. <strong>CLICK TO SEE FULL MAP.</strong>

Map of US maternal mortality ratios, based on information in Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Crisis in the USA. (c) Amnesty International. Produced by AAAS. Click to see full map.


One of the most shocking facts, illustrated in this map, is that the numbers vary immensely from state to state. A woman in Washington, DC, is almost 30 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth than a woman in Maine. Maine is one of only five states (the others being Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont) that have met the Healthy People 2010 goal of 4.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Most states’ ratios are far above that, and maternal health statistics in the USA have not improved in 20 years.

Inequalities abound. Amnesty International researchers found that women in the United States faced barriers to quality health care that included discrimination, language barriers, cost, bureaucratic hurdles, shortages of health care providers, and a lack of standardized national protocols to prevent and respond to life-threatening complications. Women of color are disproportionately affected, as are rural women, women in the inner cities, and women who do not speak English. African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications than white women.

With a map like the one above, some of these disparities become immediately apparent. With such blatant inequalities from state to state, the United States needs better coordination and accountability on maternal health at the national level.

That’s why Amnesty International is calling on Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and President Obama to create an Office of Maternal Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The office would ensure comprehensive data collection and effective nationwide review; ensure access to timely prenatal care; issue evidence-based protocols to prevent, recognize and respond to the leading pregnancy complications; encourage home visits after childbirth; vigorously enforce federal nondiscrimination laws; and recommend regulatory and legislative changes to ensure quality maternal care for all women.

Take action now by writing to Secretary Sebelius!

"Deadly Delivery" in the News

iStock_000003008516SmallLast Friday, Amnesty International launched Deadly Delivery, the new report highlighting the shocking rates of preventable maternal deaths in the United States. The media has been paying attention.

On Wednesday, viewers of Good Morning America saw our researcher Nan Strauss talk about Caesarian sections in the United States. Jennifer Block wrote an article about the report at, and Colum Lynch at the Washington Post cited our report and quoted Amnesty Executive Director Larry Cox in an article on maternal mortality worldwide. CNN picked up the story as well, with an article that detailed Amnesty’s call to action, and included comments from supportive health care professionals around the country. The Guardian, one of the UK’s leading dailies, ran an article on Friday highlighting Amnesty’s role in calling out the violations of women’s human rights in the United States. State media outlets are running the story too, particularly in states that are hard-hit by the maternal health care crisis (like Louisiana) . Here at Human Rights Now, we kicked off coverage with a post from Alicia Yamin, a world expert on maternal mortality and human rights and a special adviser to our Demand Dignity Campaign.

If you haven’t already, make sure to take action and call on Secretary Sebelius to create an Office of Maternal Health to safeguard women’s right to safe childbirth in the United States!

Mona Luxion contributed to this post.