Motherhood Shouldn't Be a Death Sentence

Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of pregnancy or childbirth -- that's more than 350,000 women every year.

The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. As Mahmoud Fathalla, past president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said:

"Women are not dying of diseases we can't treat... They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving."

Motherhood Shouldn't Be a Death Sentence

Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of pregnancy or childbirth -- that's more than 350,000 women every year.

The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. As Mahmoud Fathalla, past president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said:

"Women are not dying of diseases we can't treat... They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving."

99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. But maternal mortality is not just a developing-country scandal - in the United States women are at greater risk of dying than in 49 other countries, and African-American women are at almost four times greater risk than white women.

U.N. data published in 2010 show that between 1990 and 2008, maternal mortality decreased by 34%, to 358,000 deaths a year. Yet the overall decline is less than half of that needed to meet the Millennium Development Goal 5 target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015. And too many women are being left behind. Peru, for example, has seen a 61% drop in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2008 - but poor and Indigenous women remain at much greater risk.

Maternal mortality is not just a public health issue - it is a human rights scandal. All women have the right to access quality maternal health care, regardless of race, ethnicity or income. In June 2010, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution recognizing maternal mortality as an urgent human rights concern. Amnesty International is working on maternal mortality as part of its Demand Dignity Campaign, with reports on Peru, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and the United States.

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