By Valerie Huber
This article originally appeared on Washington Examiner
Every two minutes , a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth around the world. This means that more than 800 women die from pregnancy-related complications each day, which translates to approximately 303,000 maternal deaths per year. What’s worse is that over 80% of those complications are preventable.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, the best way to honor mothers around the world is by bringing awareness to the obstacles derailing progress for their optimal health and thriving — and committing to work together to remove them.
Today, maternal mortality remains one of the greatest threats to women’s health globally. In fact, between 2016 and 2020 , maternal mortality rates increased in North America and Europe by 17% and by 15% in Latin America and the Caribbean. The lack of prioritized funding for women’s health needs, as well as divisive political agendas, contribute to this heightened risk of morality.
In low and middle-income countries, 99% of maternal deaths occur largely because women lack access to electricity, clean water, basic medicine, and skilled prenatal and birth attendants. These things can prevent the biggest challenges that take the lives of women and their babies — hemorrhages, infection, and other prenatal and childbirth complications.
But right now, only 64% of women receive just four of the eight prenatal visits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – visits that can detect complications and save countless lives.
Still, organizations such as the WHO do not help matters by ironically and inexcusably prioritizing abortion as an “essential health service.” And in doing so, they spend a vast amount of resources advancing a radical abortion agenda that creates unnecessary division among nations and strays from the real essential healthcare desperately needed by women and mothers.
What’s more, organizations and private funders are spending millions of dollars on expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services, which include abortion. These groups are wrongly pushing ideological colonization efforts in countries with vulnerable populations who need safe birthing care the most. The Biden administration is chief among these culprits, shamelessly using “name and shame” tactics and placing economic pressure on countries unwilling to conform to their preferred legal regime.
But access to abortion is not about “health,” and it’s not about “care.” Liberalizing abortion laws does not improve women’s health , nor does it decrease maternal mortality. Furthermore, women who have access to skilled care throughout their pregnancy are actually less likely to turn to abortion.
The reality is that women around the world would have greater access to life-saving healthcare if we agree to care more about finding solutions to real health needs and less about advancing ideological agendas. At the Institute for Women’s Health , we are committed to furthering the work done by people such as Agnes Kalonji, a nurse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who is making a meaningful difference.
The DRC ranks 4th in the world for maternal mortality, and 46% of maternal deaths there occur as a result of women not receiving adequate healthcare. However, in 2018, Agnes founded PROSAMI to help provide a solution. Her organization has saved more than 1,000 lives largely by training nurses to identify and treat at-risk mothers.
We can and must follow this example of seeking solutions to real needs. The DRC, along with dozens of other countries, has done just that by signing the Geneva Consensus Declaration . This growing coalition of nations has made a commitment to defend the ideological independence of nations, and to further the health of women and their families in a way that preserves human dignity and a respect for all life. My hope is that many more will join in the years ahead.
Improving health for women, especially in the most challenging areas, requires a collective effort to make the main thing, the main thing again: Advancing the optimal health and thriving for women — for mothers — everywhere. At every stage. No strings attached. Women deserve better, and we should settle for nothing less.
Valerie Huber is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Health. She previously served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieHuber20 and @IWH4women .