USA: Global Speaker's Forum on the Crisis of Maternal Health Kicks off in San Francisco

Press Release
April 7, 2010

USA: Global Speaker's Forum on the Crisis of Maternal Health Kicks off in San Francisco

Amnesty International Media Advisory
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Global Speaker's Forum on the Crisis of Maternal Health Kicks off in San Francisco

International and Local Speakers to Focus on Campaign to Reduce Preventable Deaths of Women and Mothers

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org
(New York)
-- Amnesty International will host three special public town hall forums with its leaders from around the world and local partner organizations in San Francisco (April 14), Detroit (April 17) and New York City (April 19) to spotlight a new campaign to reduce preventable maternal deaths in the United States and worldwide. Urging the public to learn the truth about the world's "missing mothers," Amnesty International will host discussions with local maternal health experts and its national leaders from the United States, Burkina Faso, Peru, and Sierra Leone -- countries where the human rights organization has launched campaigns to prevent unacceptably high rates of maternal deaths.

Following the recent release of its report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the U.S.A., Amnesty International is asking the U.S. government to establish a national Office of Maternal Health to improve pregnancy and childbirth outcomes. The United States spends more than any other country on health care and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, the United States ranks behind 40 other countries in the rate of maternal deaths, with 2 to 3 women dying every day and 34,000 pregnant women every year suffering “near misses” -- where severe complications nearly cause death.

Maternal death rates in the United States have doubled over the last 20 years. African American women are at especially high risk; they are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.

Worldwide, more than half a million women die needlessly every year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth -- one every minute. Most of these deaths could have been prevented by access to high-quality, affordable and timely medical care.

In addition to the tragic loss of human life and devastating consequences for families and communities, these needless deaths reflect the cycle of human rights abuses that define and perpetuate poverty. More than a million children are left motherless every year, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

"Every woman has the fundamental right to a safe pregnancy, regardless of race or income," said Larry Cox, executive director, Amnesty International USA.

Joined by local maternal health experts, the forums will feature the executive directors of the four Amnesty International country sections, where the organization has issued reports on maternal health. In addition to Cox (United States), they include Yves Boukari Traore (Burkina Faso); Silvia Rosario Loli Espinoza (Peru) and Brima Abdulai Sheriff (Sierra Leone).

Open to the public, the forums will take place as follows:

Wednesday, April 14, San Francisco
5:30-7:30 p.m., San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street
Contact and RSVP: Will Butkus (wbutkus@aiusa.org)

Saturday, April 17, Detroit
2-4 p.m., Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Road.
Contact: Carrie Neff (cneff@aiusa.org)

Monday, April 19, New York City
6:30 p.m. (doors open 5:30 p.m.), Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive
Contact: Thenjiwe McHarris (tmcharris@aiusa.org).

To learn more about maternal health as a human right, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org/deadlydelivery

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.