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Senate Clears Resolution on Maternal Mortality

On October 2, the Senate passed, by unanimous consent, a resolution (S. Res. 616) recognizing maternal health as a human right and committing the Senate to “reducing maternal mortality, both at home and abroad, through greater financial investment and participation in global initiatives.” The House passed an identical resolution in May (see The Source, 5/23/08).

Sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the resolution contains a number of findings, including:  

  • more than 536,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year, which is one woman every minute;
  • girls under age 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties;
  • the poorer the household, the greater the risk of maternal death, and 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries;
  • newborns whose mothers die of any cause are three to ten times more likely to die within two years than those whose mothers survive;
  • a mother’s death lowers family income and productivity, which affects the entire community;
  • in countries with similar levels of economic development, maternal mortality is highest where women’s status is lowest;
  • the United States ranks 41st among 171 countries in the latest United Nations list ranking maternal mortality;
  • the overall United States maternal mortality ratio is now 11 deaths per 100,000 live births, one of the highest rates among industrialized nations; and
  • ethnic and racial disparities in maternal mortality rates persist and in the United States maternal mortality among black women is almost four times the rate among non-Hispanic white women.
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