Why Birth and Death are Simultaneous for Women in South Africa

Young mother with child, Ermole

Poor infrastructure, lack of privacy and limited access to health services are only a few of the factors contributing to the devastating maternal mortality rate in South Africa.

There is a rural area in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa where the maternal mortality rate more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. Why are women so at risk for dying during childbirth in this province? The reasons are complex and inter-related but many factors can be addressed by the provincial Minister of Health. And we are demanding that he does. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

This Mother’s Day, It Was Motherhood, Not Rape, That Made Congo the Worst Place to Be a Woman

Save the Children's "State of the World's Mothers" report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world's worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

Save the Children’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world’s worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

In honor of Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report. I was saddened, but not surprised to see the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst place to be a mother.

Severe violations of women’s human rights in Congo are, unfortunately, a perennial subject of attention for me and numerous other rights activists. Typically those violations are associated with the long and bloody conflict that has spanned the country and concentrated in its most recent stages in the East.

Indeed, DRC has been plagued by almost two decades of conflict resulting in the suffering and death of millions of men, women and children. Most chillingly, the Congo conflict has become synonymous with rape and other forms of sexual violence, which are committed with impunity by security forces, including the armed forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC), and other armed groups. For this reason, it was ranked the worst place to be a woman by the United Nations just last year.


Why Does Salvadoran Law Condemn This Young Mother to Death?

Protesters at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court of Justice in San Salvador.  The sign reads, "If Beatriz were your daughter, would it be illegal to save her life?"(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Agrupación Ciudadana por la despenalización del aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico).

Protesters at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court of Justice in San Salvador. The sign reads, “If Beatriz were your daughter, would it be illegal to save her life?”(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Agrupación Ciudadana por la despenalización del aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico).

Officially, El Salvador does not have capital punishment. The result will be the same, however, for “Beatriz,” a 22-year-old whose “crime” consists of needing an abortion to save her life. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador law under all circumstances, including rape, incest, and maternal health. Beatriz has a history of lupus, kidney problems, and other health conditions that her doctors have indicated place her at high-risk for pregnancy-related death. She is currently four and a half months pregnant. Preventing her from receiving an abortion is therefore comparable to a death sentence. This, in turn, will leave her one-year-old son motherless.

But surely, you may think, some Salvadoran doctor will ignore the law for the higher goal of saving this woman’s life. In November, I posted an account of another Salvadoran woman, “Mery,” who was turned in to the police by her own doctors after suffering complications from a clandestine abortion. While this may appear shocking to readers in the United States, Salvadoran law requires doctors to do so. “Beatriz” and her doctors have to worry that someone will turn them in if they proceed without explicit government authorization.


Exciting Progress for Health Care Equality!

A mother holds her infant during a check-up at a clinic for low-income families. ©John Moore/Getty Images

As Amnesty International’s recent reports on maternal health  have highlighted, discrimination in health care in the United States is severe and pervasive. But recently introduced legislation would help end discrimination and improve the quality of health care in the United States.

Last month, Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA).  Passing this legislation will help eliminate disparities in access to health care and in health outcomes for communities of color. The HEAA ensures that a full range of culturally appropriate public health services are available and accessible to communities of color, and that services are available in the languages used by those communities.  The bill also provides training opportunities for health care workers to better address particular health issues facing marginalized communities.


Combating Maternal Mortality Crucial To Meeting MDGs

Maternal Health in PeruMost maternal deaths are entirely preventable. Yet, while the world is making progress in fighting maternal mortality, far too many women are still losing their lives.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the most prominent global anti-poverty initiative ever undertaken.  The goals set out targets for alleviating extreme poverty, including reducing maternal deaths by 75% (MDG5), by 2015. However, even this modest target will not be met by the deadline unless efforts are significantly stepped up.

Meeting the maternal mortality target, for example, would require a 5.5% annual reduction in maternal deaths since 1990, and the world has seen only 2.3% annual improvement.  A woman still dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth every 90 seconds.


This World Health Day, Shine a Light on Maternal Health

Pregnant women at a maternity waiting house in northern Sierra Leone, where they can stay fom the ninth month of pregnancy until their babies are delivered.

Today is World Health Day – and you can celebrate by shining a light on maternal health!

World Health Day marks the anniversary of the founding, in 1948, of the World Health Organization, whose constitution — signed by all 193 Members of the United Nations — states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

Preventable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth are violations of the right to health, and the right to freedom from discrimination due to gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, or income level. Maternal mortality is not just a public health emergency – it is a human rights crisis.

Every 90 seconds, another woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth – that’s 1,000 women every day, more than 350,000 each year. The vast majority of these deaths could be prevented, and ninety-nine percent happen in the developing world — the greatest disparity between developed and developing countries of any global health issue.


One Post Read-One Mother Dead

By the time you finish reading this post, one woman will have died due to conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or childbirth-that’s more than 350,000 women every year.   And here in the United States, more than two women die every day.

These deaths are a human rights violation.  Why?  Because women are not dying of diseases that doctors cannot cure, but because societies have yet to decide that their lives are worth saving.

As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, we recognize the women all around the world who die while trying to give life.

In the United States, women have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea. In addition, African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Amnesty International found that most of these deaths could have been prevented with access to good quality health care.


Celebrating 100 Years of Women's Empowerment

Wow! International Women’s Day is celebrating 100 years of women’s empowerment and progress towards complete gender equality! To celebrate this momentous benchmark, Amnesty International USA plans to kick off the first full week of March with a series of blog posts highlighting the work we continue to do address women’s human rights issues.

International Women’s Day represents two sides of the push for women’s rights: one is a celebration of how far we’ve come, and the other is a reinvigoration of the push for total gender equality.

For years, Amnesty has been striving to ensure universal rights for all women – focusing specifically on ending violence against women, including the violence and sexual assault perpetrated against Indigenous women in the U.S. As we expanded our work to include the broad spectrum of economic, social, and cultural rights, we have taken on the daunting task of fighting for those human rights violations that are both a cause and consequence of poverty.


Congress Must Prioritize Combating Maternal Mortality

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.