Texas Maternal Death Rate Doubles in Wake of Family Planning Funding Cuts

Maternal mortality rates in Texas almost doubled between 2010 and 2012, according to a new study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The data coincides with state lawmakers’ initiative in 2011 to cut family planning funds by 66 percent.

Texas’ maternal mortality rate remained stable between 2000 and 2010; however, the number jumped from 72 deaths in 2010 to 148 deaths in 2012.

The journal calls the spike hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.”

While there is not enough data to prove the sky-rocketing rates are correlated with state funding cuts, the 82 family planning clinics that have been forced to close since 2011 certainly have not helped this public health crisis.

Sarah Wheat, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, referred to the clinics that were forced to close as an “entry point into the health care system” for women. Speaking to the Dallas Morning News, she said, “Chances are they’re going to have a harder time finding somewhere to go to get that first appointment. They may be delayed in getting that initial pregnancy test and then a prenatal referral.”

Despite Texas being well aware of the unprecedented maternal death rate—launching a task force to investigate the emergency in 2013—legislators doubled down on their attempt to limit women’s access to healthcare, passing HB 2 that same year in an attempt to successfully shutter more women’s health clinics. Though that the Supreme Court found HB 2 to be unconstitutional, it might take years for the closed clinics to open their doors again, if they’re able to reopen at all. Three years in, the states’ task force has yet to issue any recommendations.

Research shows that 60 percent of low-income women of reproductive age accessed their healthcare through Planned Parenthood prior to the states’ draconian funding cuts. The majority of these women were redirected to state and charitable hospitals where the demand has overwhelmed their capacity to provide services.

The average maternal death rate in countries classified as “developed” stands at 12 per 100,000 live births; in 2013, Texas’ maternal death rate was nearly three times that number. While 157 other countries reported a decreased rate of maternal mortality between 2000 and 2014, the US reported a 27 percent increase.

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