On Wednesday’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Sam Bee looked into one of the most perplexing and infuriating medical statistics out there: The fact that American women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, despite the U.S. spending more per capita on maternity care than any other nation. While infant death rates in America are at historic lows, the “what do you call them? women” who carry such infants to term are at more risk than they have been in decades, with mothers in the U.S. twice as likely to die as those in Saudi Arabia and three times as likely as in the U.K.
How can this be? (asked Bee). How is it that the U.S. is spending the most per capita on maternity care and getting the worst results? Because most of the spending and focus is going toward the babies. “We’re kinda meh about the nagging husks that incubate them,” said Bee.
There are two subsets of the nagging incubators who are especially at risk: rural women and black women. Maternal mortality is 64 percent higher in rural areas than in large cities, while rates among black women are more than triple the rate for white women. Many rural hospitals lack obstetrics services, and that trend is on the rise, with OB units usually the first to go when hospitals are faced with budget cuts. (Perhaps, Bee suggests, if we turn all OB units into Confederate monuments, people will actually fight to protect them.) With OB units closing, many women have to drive up to an hour just to reach maternal healthcare—if they have access to a car at all. Black women, meanwhile, suffer disproportionately whether they live in a rural area or not, Ashley Nicole Black stopped by to point out.
Yet somehow the issue is not being prioritized, despite the staggering statistics and the centrality of women to, you know, the continuation of human existence. “We are living in a society that’s outraged by problems with the dominos delivery tracker app but we’re totally chill about the problems with the delivery of new human lives,” said Bee. It’s mind-blowing that the dangers of childbearing are treated as such a low priority, especially considering “a mere 100% of Americans are the result of female pregnancy,” said Bee. “The only exception is Ted Cruz, who may have hatched from a lizard egg.”
It’s especially frustrating because many of the solutions are so simple. States that refused the Obamacare Medicaid expansion for partisan reasons are among those who have been hardest hit by rural hospital closures: three-quarters of the rural hospitals which have closed since 2010 were in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. We also know the most frequent causes of death are, and in many cases, how to fix them. When California introduced “hemorrhage carts,” the state maternal mortality rate dropped to one-third of the national rate. Texas meanwhile, which is closing Planned Parenthoods (and rejected the Medicaid expansion) has the highest’s maternal mortality rate in the developed world. “The Lone Star state refers to the Yelp reviews of its maternity wards,” said Bee.
Much like with the abortion debate, in which pro-life advocates emphasize the rights of fetuses over the rights of the living, breathing woman carrying them, this avoidable epidemic is a result of a lack of respect for women as people. It’s time for America to decide: Does it care about human life or does it not?