In 2010, 287,000 women died of pregnancy-related causes, and the death of a mother devastates her family and her entire community. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR), or the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, ranges from over 1,000 in the least developed countries to 16 in the most developed countries. The four main causes of these maternal deaths are hemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders, and obstructed labor. All of these deaths are preventable, and a historical investigation shows that prevention is not necessarily high-cost and accessible only to developed countries. The necessary interventions to prevent these deaths are prenatal care, the provision of skilled birth attendants, adequately equipped health facilities, and health care delivery system infrastructure, including education and transportation. Although official statistics include abortion as a cause of maternal mortality, this inclusion does not recognize that abortion is elective and does not occur in childbirth, which detracts from efforts to reduce the number of the vast majority of maternal deaths. Many NGOs and United Nations agencies call for the provision of “safe” abortion services to decrease the MMR, but this ignores the reality that in countries with high MMRs, the medical infrastructure is too poor to provide “safe” abortions. It also does not address the point of maternal health, to get the mother and baby safely through childbirth, not to prevent childbirth. The example of Chile demonstrates that abortion is not a necessary intervention to reduce the MMR drastically.
To read and download the WYA White Paper on Maternal Health, please visit here.