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If you’re up to date on what’s happening lately on Grey’s Anatomy, you know that the doctors have been preparing for a research competition. On last week’s episode, Pediatric Surgeon Arizona Robbins decided that her project would address the cause of the maternal mortality rate in the United States. As we shared last week, the U.S. now has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and it’s on the rise.

In the United States, 26.4 per 100,000 live births results in maternal death, compared to 4.2 per 100,000 in Italy, 9.2 per 100,000 in the U.K., 5.6 per 100,000 in Spain, 5.5 per 100,000 in and Australia, 9 per 100,000 in Germany and Portugal, 7.8 per 100,000 in France, 7.3 per 100,000 in Canada and 6.7 per 100,000 in the Netherlands.

Having Kids can save the Grey’s writers some time. We know the cause of these staggering numbers: cuts to Medicaid and Planned Parenthood and the stripping of the Affordable Care Act have hurt expectant mothers, especially women of color.

According to the WHO, the top contributors to maternal deaths are inconsistent obstetric practice in hospitals, insufficient care for the increasing number of women with chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and the general lack of good data – and related analysis – on maternal health outcomes.

According to Dr. Priya Agrawal, “Women who lack health insurance are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than women who have health insurance.” And Medicaid at last count covered 51% of all births in the United States. Slashing support for healthcare is killing mothers as in no other developed country. The majority of these deaths are preventable.

We know that the healthcare crisis is complex. But we can take steps to reverse this unacceptable trend with a renewed commitment to access to affordable family planning and prenatal care, putting mothers and children before politics. And the best way to refocus our priorities is by putting children first in all policy making to give every child a fair start.


“Global, regional, and national levels of maternal mortality, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015,” The Lancet. Only data for 1990, 2000 and 2015 was made available in the journal.

Source: The Lancet
Credit: Rob Weychert/ProPublica

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