On August 23 2018, California Senator Kamala Harris made two claims about maternal mortality on her Twitter account. She wrote:
It’s alarming the U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the rate of maternal mortality is higher than 25 years ago. And we must acknowledge the risk of death for Black women from pregnancy-related causes is 3-4x higher than white women in America. It is a public health crisis.
Claim 1: The U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the rate of maternal mortality is higher than 25 years ago.
This claim is corroborated by Leontine Alkema, PhD, Dr Doris Chou, MD, Daniel Hogan, PhD, et al., in their study published in The Lancet in 2016 wherein they compare maternal mortality rates from 183 countries using data compiled from various state agencies from the period of 1990 to 2015 (i.e. 25 years). Their dataset is available here in PDF form. Table 3 contains the raw data. Comparing these numbers confirms 13 of the 183 countries compared in the study had higher mortality rates in 2015 than 1990. They were:
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
- Saint Lucia
- South Africa
- United States of America
Alkema, L. et al. Global, regional, and national levels and trends in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015, with scenario-based projections to 2030: a systematic analysis by the UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group. Lancet 387, 462–474 (2016).
True, as of 2015, according to Alkema et al.
Claim 2: The risk of death for Black women from pregnancy-related causes is 3 to 4 times higher than the same risk for white women.
The report issued by center for disease control and prevention titled pregnancy mortality surveillance system says:
Considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist. During 2011-2014, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were:
- 12.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women.
- 40.0 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women.
- 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births for women of other races.
True, as of 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.