Health

Study: Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas

| by Michael Allen
Texas Gov. Greg AbbottTexas Gov. Greg Abbott

A newly released study found pregnancy-related deaths in Texas saw a dramatic increase from 2010 to 2014.

The study, published in the September issue of medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that the death rate suddenly began rising in 2011, which was the same year Texas cut family planning funds by 66 percent, notes The Huffington Post.

In 2010, 72 women died from pregnancy-related deaths, but that number shot up to 148 in 2012, according to the study. There were more than 600 of these types of deaths from 2010 to 2014.

The study stated: "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 pro-life Texas Republican state legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott (pictured) cut women's health programs, which led to the closing of 82 family planning and women's health care clinics; one third of those clinics were Planned Parenthood facilities.

A task force, created by Texas lawmakers in 2013, has been studying the deaths and is expected to present its first report on Sept. 1.

"I would love it if things could go faster," Dr. Lisa Hollier, an OB-GYN at the Baylor College of Medicine and leader of the task force, told The Dallas Morning News.

Sarah Wheat, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told the newspaper that the family planning clinics that had either closed or faced severe budget cuts were an "entry point into the health care system" for many women.

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

Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams said that maternal death rate numbers are "a complex problem," and added: "We're aware of the numbers and want to see a decrease in this trend, and that's why the task force is closely reviewing these cases and will make recommendations."

While the State of Texas struggles to put its finger on the problem, Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times on Aug. 29 that the "general background of Texas policy" is "extremely hostile toward anything that helps low-income residents."

Krugman also notes that 19 states -- Texas included -- have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to help poor residents:

A large part of the answer, surely, is the usual one: It’s about race. Medicaid expansion disproportionately benefits nonwhite Americans; so does spending on public health more generally. And opposition to these programs is concentrated in states where voters in local elections don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them.

In the specific case of Planned Parenthood, this usual answer is overlaid with other, equally nasty issues, including -- or so I’d say -- a substantial infusion of misogyny.

Sources: The Huffington Post, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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