I became a mother at age 18. Back when birth control was inaccessible and abortion was illegal. I raised a family and watched from the sidelines as many brave women protested, litigated and legislated the changes many women, but far from all, in the United States now enjoy. I was grateful that the advocacy of the many changed the opportunities for the young women coming up behind me.
But it was not enough.
For years, I would claim I was pro-choice. But no more. Now, I would say I am pro-women's reproductive health, what some term reproductive justice. In my mind and heart that covers access to contraceptives, including Plan B; access to abortion, yes; medical care for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer detection, certainly; and safe, toxin-free environments, definitely. Yet, right now, I am most zealous about improving maternal health care--to stop women from dying needlessly during childbirth.
In Save the Children's annual ranking of maternal health, the United States rose six spots from 2011 to 25th place, largely due to a 10-percent increase in female enrollment in pre-kindergarten programs, as well as a one-year increase in the average number of years girls spend in school. But the United States still lags far behind other wealthy nations in overall status of women, said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.
The United States has the highest percentage of maternal deaths among wealthy countries; sub-Saharan Africa still leads most of the world in maternal deaths. Roughly half of these deaths are preventable. The best guess on how to save the lives of new mothers is that African women need more medical interventions and U.S. women, the opposite.
Here is a package of news stories posted by Women's eNews over the past year that focus on the many benefits and hazards of motherhood.
Stay tuned also for an upcoming series on maternal health issues in Morocco by Women's eNews Managing Editor Juhie Bhatia.
Finally, if you're not sure what to get your mother this Mother's Day, check out our film columnist's suggestions for great mom-centric films to watch or peruse these must-read books. Happy Mother's Day.
Rita Henley Jensen
Editor in Chief
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