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Why are so many pregnant women dying in Texas?

Better yet, what are we going to do about it?

The rate of Texas women dying of pregnancy-related causes nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014, with the state seeing more than 600 such deaths in the four-year span.

In a new study, set to be published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers found that Texas experienced a dramatic increase in pregnancy-related deaths from 2010 to 2012. While the rest of the country also experienced an increase, no other state saw the rate nearly double like it did in Texas.

Some health experts complain that the state has been slow to respond to the problem. A state task force on the issue is nearly three years into its work and has released no recommendations.

“We’re really seeing this is a serious problem with maternal mortality,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB-GYN who studies the effects of recent reproductive health legislation in Texas with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “It really seems like that’s where the state officials should be focusing on trying to improve health and safety.”

From 2006 to 2010, the rate of Texas women who died while pregnant or within 42 days of being pregnant due to causes related to their pregnancies fluctuated between 18.1 and 18.6 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the study. In 2011, the rate jumped to 33, and by 2014, it was 35.8.

In 2012, 148 women died from such causes, up from 72 deaths two years before.

The findings stumped the national researchers and have prompted them to begin a further study into maternal mortality in Texas. Vital statistics officials on both state and national levels “did not identify” any change in the data recording processes that could have resulted in the dramatic increase, according to the study.

The Texas Legislature created a task force in 2013 to study pregnancy-related deaths and severe complications in the state. It’s set to release its first report to lawmakers on Sept. 1.

[…]

The rise in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011 coincided with the beginning of major budget cuts in Texas. In September of that year, health care providers across the state began to feel the effects of a family planning budget reduced by two-thirds.

Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said many of the family planning clinics that lost funding or closed were an “entry point into the health care system” for women.

“Chances are they’re going to have a harder time finding somewhere to go to get that first appointment,” Wheat said. “They may be delayed in getting that initial pregnancy test and then a prenatal referral.”

The study mentioned changes to women’s health services and clinic closures but didn’t go so far as to suggest there was a correlation between that and the uptick in pregnancy-related deaths.

“Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a two year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely,” the study said.

I’m going to wait and see what that task force finally says on September 1. It took them three years to come up with something, so one hopes it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, I wonder why we haven’t heard more from the “pro-life” forces in this state, whom we know are legion and not at all the quiet types. One would certainly think that a sharp, unexplained rise in the rate of pregnant women dying would be the sort of thing that might attract their attention and at least some of their energy. Wouldn’t one? The Current has more.

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7 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Give more money to planned parenthood. Better yet before anyone decides to have a baby make it mandatory to have consultation with a planned parenthood representative. No even better before you have sex get a consultation with Planned Parenthood. That should solve all the problems. Maybe have a planned Parenthood kiosk at ever gas station in America for easy access.

  2. Ross says:

    Paul, regardless of your stance on PP abortion services, they did a better job than anyone else of providing essential medical care for women. That care was provided without judgement, and with the intent of providing the the patients with all the necessary information to make an appropriate decision. So far, the options that were supposed to replace PP are not living up to that standard.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    Ross, perhaps so however if they were funded to the same extent as Planned Parenthood who knows what would happen. Pure speculation on my part.

  4. Bill Kelly says:

    Given the seriousness of this issue (women dying), I hope the conversation is worthy of us.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    If women must rely on PP, AKA, the free clinic for their prenatal care, what, exactly, does that say about their financial fitness to be parents in the first place? I’m all for legal abortion, because selfishly, I am not interested in paying for kids that don’t belong to me, and the majority of the aborted kids would otherwise end up being taxpayer funded. We’ve got plenty of those already, due mainly to the easy availability of welfare and the breakdown of the nuclear family. Great Society, indeed.

    While the mortality rate is interesting, I’d like to see it broken down more. What percentage of those deaths were illegal alien mothers that should have died in their own country? What percentage of those were entirely dependent on handouts for their prenatal care?

    Finally, what I would really like to know what is cheaper……funding PP with taxpayer dollars or funding the extra welfare for otherwise aborted kids. I’m betting it’s cheaper to abort them than to fund them for 18+years.

    @Ross:

    Providing the necessary information to make an appropriate decision ought to include pointing out when someone can’t afford to have a baby, right? Does PP do that?

  6. Ross says:

    @Bill, I don’t know if PP points that out specifically, but I do know that providing safe, reliable contraception is the best way to prevent unwanted and untimely pregnancies. Unless, of course, you are advocating that poor women tell their partners that “no, we aren’t having sex for the next 7 years, until we can afford the possibility of having a child”. While that may sound like a great plan, it completely ignores that sex is the third strongest drive after sleeping and eating, and that people have sex, regardless of circumstances.

    @Paul, none of the alleged options to PP have the same network of clinics and well trained medical personnel necessary to provide the same level of services, even if funded at the same level. The stupid cretins that foisted this crap on us knew very well that was the case, but they hate women in general, and poor women in particular, so everything has worked out the way they wanted.

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    “In fact, the women come from virtually every demographic sector. But year after year the statistics reveal that black women and economically struggling women — who have above-average rates of unintended pregnancies — are far more likely than others to have abortions. About 13 percent of American women are black, yet new figures from the Centers for Disease Control show they account for 35 percent of the abortions.”

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/22689931/ns/health-womens_health/t/whos-getting-abortions-not-who-youd-think/#.V7umoVsrK70

    Again I go back to the PP Kiosk. It just blows my mind. How can anyone talk about race and not deal with this statistic.