According to data from the 2022 study completed by the U.S. GAO office, maternal death rates in the U.S. are at an all time high, where significant factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the reversal of Roe v. Wade greatly exacerbated the situation. From 2019 to 2021, maternal death rates rose 40%, a number that reflects the greatest impact on women of color. The rising maternal death rate is deeply concerning as we enter into 2024, a year in which we should have the most technology, knowledge, and resources available for prenatal and postpartum care. Yet, the U.S. is facing more maternal death rates than ever, with a significant number of these deaths a direct result of racial disparity within the U.S. healthcare system.
In 2022, for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. there were 68.9 maternal deaths of Black women, 27.5 maternal deaths of Latina and Hispanic women, and 26.1 maternal deaths for white women. These statistics represent not only an appalling number of maternal deaths, but also a deep disparity in the maternal health care services that women of color face, with Black women facing 2.6 times higher maternal mortality rates than white women in the U.S.
Disparity in health care services for women of color in the U.S. is a devastating reality. Past experiences of racial trauma and discrimination faced by women of color, systematic racism and bias within the U.S. healthcare system, and socioeconomic struggles that result in lesser access to quality maternal health care are just a few of the factors leading to an inequitable distribution of proper care for women obtaining prenatal care. These issues were only heightened in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Covid accounting for 25% of maternal deaths, a great number of which were women of color.
Yet, the pandemic was not the only driving factor in driving maternal death rates. The recent reversal of Roe v. Wade has also served as a significant factor in reducing proper access to maternal care. With maternal death rates 62% higher in states with abortion bans and restricted access to reproductive health services, the reversal of Roe is working to perpetuate maternal mortality rates, particularly in southern states with greater populations of women of color, and the most restrictions of reproductive health services and abortion access.
Lack of proper maternal health care is also a large factor in preterm birth and death rates, currently at a global high. With maternal health care quality and preterm deaths closely linked, it is imperative to target these issues at the source and work to provide quality, accessible, and equitable maternal health care for prenatal and postpartum mothers and babies across the world.
Calling for better health care for women is a common occurrence in the face of Roe’s reversal, one which is frustratingly ignored in many U.S. states quick to pass abortion bans. Yet, devastatingly it is this very lack of health care that is contributing significantly to preterm births, preterm death rates, and maternal mortality all across the U.S, and thus increasing these rates across the world.
The statistics provide a grim picture of reality, and reading them clearly provides an urgent need for change in the health care of women and mothers, especially the women of color who are most impacted by such devastating factors. With increased access to health professionals, safe access to educated health professionals in the field as well as overall investment in maternal health throughout the country, many of these harsh statistics could be greatly reduced. With 80% of pregnancy deaths being preventable, there is certainly no reason to have such high maternal mortality rates. It is clear what needs to be done. Through eradicating the numerous healthcare tragedies that reversing Roe has brought to creating more accessible health care for women all over the U.S., preterm complications and mother and infant mortality rates can be greatly reduced. There is no excuse for such a high mortality rate, nor is there an excuse to be denying women and children all over the U.S. the proper health care they deserve.