14 Incredible Facts about Maternal Mortality in the United States

maternal mortality statisticsEvery 90 seconds, one woman in the world dies from pregnancy-related complications. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, particularly South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, making it the greatest health disparity between developed and developing countries.

Because maternal mortality is the greatest health disparity between developed and developing countries, it seems like it’s really not a problem in developed countries like the United States. The statistics seems to illustrate that maternal health is a concern in other countries and not our own. But, that’s not the case. Let’s not pretend that maternal mortality isn’t a problem in the U.S.. Let’s not pretend American women aren’t dying in childbirth when we are capable of saving their lives. Here are X fast facts about maternal mortality in the U.S.

Maternal Mortality in the United States

  1. In the United States, between two or three women die from pregnancy-related complications every day.
  2. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
  3. One-third of all women who give birth in the United States, which is about 1.7 million women per year, experience some type of complication that has an adverse effect on their health.
  4. More than 34,000 women who experience some type of complication nearly die from that complication. This number, known as “near misses,” has increased 25 percent between 1998 and 2005.
  5. Forty percent of “near misses” could have been prevented.
  6. Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. This delays the start of prenatal care, which increases the likelihood of complications.
  7. One in four women don’t receive adequate prenatal care in the first trimester.
  8. “Adequate prenatal care” is defined as 13 prenatal visits beginning in the first trimester. Twenty-five percent of women don’t meet this criteria, but this percentage increases to 32 percent for African-American women and 41 percent of Native American and Alaskan women.
  9. Native American women are 3.5 times more likely to receive late or no prenatal care than white women.
  10. Women with no prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die than those who have access to prenatal care.
  11. Among women with high risk pregnancies, African-American women are five and a half times more likely to die than white women.
  12. More than half of all maternal deaths occur between one and 42 days after birth. However, postpartum care is generally limited to one office visit six weeks after birth.
  13. The U.S. has no standardized, nationally-implemented protocols to prevent, recognize, and treat the leading causes of childbirth-related deaths such as blood clots or massive blood loss.
  14. There are no federal requirements to report maternal deaths and data collection at the state level is insufficient, meaning that opportunities to prevent future deaths are missed because we aren’t counting, reviewing, or learning what happened to cause these deaths.

Our Next Book Club Book is on Rwanda

Rwanda bookSince the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda recently passed, our chapter has chosen We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda as our next book club reading. Fortunately, this one is much shorter than our previous choice, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

We will be discussing the Rwanda book at our June meeting, which is scheduled for Jun. 11 at 7 p.m. Please make an effort to attend if you plan to read the book with our chapter. It’s okay if you don’t read the entire book, as you can still attend the meeting if you don’t finish it. However, we can’t guarantee that we won’t give away any spoilers.

Book Summary

This summary was taken off of the book’s Amazon page if you’re interested in learning more about our book club choice.

In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch’s haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy’s background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. One of the most acclaimed books of the year, this account will endure as a chilling document of our time.

Don’t Forget: We Have a Meeting Tonight

If you’re more interested in “bringing human rights home” and focusing on human rights issues in the United States, then please attend tomorrow’s Amnesty business meeting if you can (details are below}. During tomorrow’s meeting, one of our members is giving a presentation on Amnesty International’s recent report, “Chicago & Illinois: A 10-Point Human Rights Agenda.” The report outlines 10 human rights issues in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, and many of these issues are also relevant to St. Louis and Missouri. Please come if you can (sorry for the late notice)!

May Business Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members, chapter members, and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss the human rights issues facing Chicago and Illinois, as well as any other matters affecting our chapter.

When: May 14 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We will meet in the front dining area.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

What You Need to Know about Corporate Accountability

business and human rightsIf businesses and multinational corporations are considered people under the Citizen United ruling, then they ought to be considered people under a variety of other characteristics besides free speech. Businesses and multinational corporations should also be considered people when it comes to human rights, both in acknowledging them and in holding them accountable for human rights violations. If individuals are held to this standard, then they ought to be held by the same standard if they are going to be “people” under the law. Here’s what you need to know about corporate accountability and what governments need to do to ensure these organizations uphold human rights in their operations.

Of the World’s 100 Largest Economies, 42 are Global Corporations, Not Countries

As of 2010, a little less than half of the world’s largest economies are global corporations. That percentage increases to 58% when you look at the top 150 economies. Wal-Mart is the largest global corporation, with its 2010 revenues exceeding the GDPs of 171 countries (note that there are 195 internationally recognized independent states). The five largest energy companies in the world – ExxonMobil, BP, Sinopec, Royal Dutch Petroleum, and China National Petroleum Corporation – actually comprise 2.5% of the world’s global GDP. Those five companies combined have the same size GDP as Canada, which is the 10th largest country in the world.

Overall point: these multinational corporations are powerful, more powerful than much of the world’s independent nations.

Corporate Accountability is More than Getting Justice for Human Rights Abuses

The story of St. Louis and the Veolia water contract is a perfect example of holding corporations accountable for previous actions and preventing them from continuing their behavior. Safe drinking water is a basic human need as well as a basic human right, and shouldn’t be left to transnational companies to do what they want with it while profiting at the expense of the locals and the poor. St. Louisans made it clear that they didn’t like Veolia and that they weren’t going to accept handing over their water or what the company was doing in other parts of the country and the world.

One in four people in the world don’t have safe drinking water. Unchecked corporate power is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time, and although St. Louisans were successful in checking Veolia’s power, there’s still more to do be done with many other organizations and how they’re using their unchecked power to inflict harm.

Let’s Not Forget Their Influence in Politics

Everyone understands that Citizens United gave corporations immense power to influence public policy and to subvert the will of the people. Bank of America is bankrolling Big Coal, while Big Oil has a huge hand in trying to get the Keystone XL pipeline going. Monsanto spent millions in California to defeat a GMO labeling bill in the most recent election. There’s also the role the financial institutions played in preventing regulations of the financial industry, especially in the few years after the crisis. A big part of corporate accountability is holding these companies accountable to their stances and what they want as public policy as well as any human rights abuses and violations they may commit.

We need to challenge corporate election spending, as well as uncover what issues they are spending money on for lobbying and public policy. If corporations are going to spend millions upon millions of dollars to support or to defeat certain issues, then the public (and especially their customers) should know about these activities.

Related Links:

How to Track Relevant Human Rights Legislation

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Lobbying for Human Rights

How to Use Twitter to Promote Human Rights 

How to Track Relevant Human Rights Legislation

tracking human rights legislationAn important aspect of human rights activism is tracking relevant legislation as it moves through Congress. We need to know which bills are up for a vote on the floor or at a committee hearing, and who’s sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or supporting certain bills. We also need to know dates and times as soon as possible so we can speak to our representatives right away. The hard part about all this is getting the timing right, and knowing when things happen. Most people use the press or follow certain committees, but there’s actually a better way. Below are a few possible solutions you can use to track relevant human rights legislation:

TrakBill

What makes Trakbill (which is based in St. Louis) a great choice for tracking legislation is that the software comes with real-time notifications. So, if a vote is scheduled for an important bill, then you can choose to learn about it via text message, email, or push notification. The software also comes with a calendar feature, so you can put hearings on the calendar and plan what needs to be done to prepare for the hearing.

The only downside is that Trakbill’s free version only allows you to track five bills at a time, which seems small. The company told us that they are increasing the limit to 10 within the next few, which is a little bit better. The paid options aren’t bad, as $99/month (or $599 for the year) will allow you to track 50 bills at a time. The pricing and the number of bills allotted are both more reasonable for most human rights organizations.

Votility

Online advocacy software Votility is a very good solution for tracking both local and federal legislation, but is a solution that’s better for bigger organizations because of the pricing. A small chapter like our St. Louis Amnesty chapter wouldn’t be able to afford the $250/month to track relevant human rights legislation, and we certainly couldn’t afford the $350/month for the capabilities to increase member retention and acquire new members.

However, they do have a free version for individuals, which would be a good choice for activists who want to work on their own or if a small organization wants to dedicate one person to tracking legislation and planning necessary actions. This might be one that I’ll sign up for and try for a little while to see how it works. It doesn’t seem like their free version has a limit to the number of bills you can track.

GovTrack.us

GovTrack is the only one of the three legislation-tracking tools that automatically starts on the federal level showing the big issues almost in real-time. This is a good tool to start with if you aren’t sure which bills you need to be watching, or if you want to watch everything on the federal level. They also have a browse bills by subject section, and although there isn’t a human rights section, their list of subjects is comprehensive enough to find something related to the specific human rights issues that you work on.

The downside to GovTrack is that it doesn’t seem to be as robust as the first two, where you can receive text message notifications or to use a built-in calendar. It also doesn’t seem like you can track a specific bill in one state, but can only either track the state or track a specific federal bill. However, it does seem there isn’t a limit to the number of bills or things you can track. You can also track by committee, by specific lawmaker, or by voting records, which is also a feature that TrakBill allows once you have an account (free or paid).

Overall, I’d recommend picking one or two tools to use to track relevant human rights legislation. It would put your organization in a position to do a little more lobbying, with more specific information on what your members could do to advocate for the issue.

President Obama’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 8 of 8)

business, labor and human rightsThis is the last blog post in our eight-part series covering the Obama administration’s action and leadership on international human rights, focusing on international disability rights and the connection between labor and human rights. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is up for consideration again in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so it would be great if we could ratify this treaty this year, among other laws and treaties.

Next week, we’ll continue with our regular blog posting, covering topics such as recent human rights news, resources to help you with your activism, and notifications for upcoming human rights events in the area. As a reminder, our first St. Louis Amnesty chapter meeting of 2014 is Jan. 14. More details on the meeting when we get closer to the date, but don’t forget that our chapter is taking action this year also.

Promoting International Disability Rights

The Obama Administration is making international disability rights a key component of our international human rights policy, carrying forward our nation’s legacy of leadership as a champion for dignity, access, opportunity, and inclusion for persons with disabilities.

Institutionalizing our Support

The Obama Administration has created the new positions of Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the State Department and Coordinator for Disability and Inclusive Development at USAID.  With the leadership of these senior officials, the United States can better ensure that foreign assistance and development programs incorporate persons with disabilities, that the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in international emergency situations, and that our public diplomacy addresses disability issues.

Ratifying the Disabilities Treaty

In 2009, during his first year in office, President Obama directed his Administration to sign the Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty grounded in the same principles as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the center of gravity for efforts to expand disability rights globally.  We are working to secure Senate advice and consent for ratification so that the United States can join the other 138 parties to the treaty.  While our diplomats and development professionals are doing great work on disabilities issues, our status as a non-party to the Treaty means that we lose credibility and leverage in this area.  By joining the Treaty, the United States will carry forward its legacy of global leadership on disability rights, enhance our ability to bring other countries up to our own high standards of access and inclusion, and help expand opportunities abroad for over 50 million Americans with disabilities – including our 5.5 million disabled veterans.  Our ratification will amplify and enhance the current work of the State Department and USAID by positioning the United States to be an effective champion for the kinds of systemic reforms needed to raise standards and improve the lives of persons with disabilities globally.

Business, Labor, and Human Rights

Because the activities of businesses have impacts on the lives of millions of people around the world, the U.S. government is working with U.S. companies to help them uphold high standards and ensure their activities respect the human rights of people in the communities where they do business.

Supporting Business Activities

The United States encourages and supports the activities of business that help solve global challenges and improve the welfare of people – for example, by hosting meetings and conference calls among U.S. companies, investors, and U.S. government experts to discuss how companies can effectively address labor and human rights challenges in particular countries.

Partnering Together

We support initiatives that harness the comparative advantages of business and government by working together – such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative, in which the United States works with other governments, companies, and civil society organizations to promote the implementation of a set of principles that guide oil, gas, and mining companies in providing security for their operations in a manner that respects human rights.

Promoting Respect for Human Rights

We promote the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a level playing field by encouraging responsible business behavior and inviting engagement by business in venues that advance best practices.  For example, as part of the easing of sanctions on Burma last year, the Department of State established reporting requirements for newly authorized U.S. investment in Burma.  This reporting process will encourage responsible investment and business operations, promote inclusive economic development, and contribute to the welfare of the Burmese people.

This United States is also a strong supporter of decent work and of internationally recognized workers’ rights as a matter of both human rights and economic policy.  We work through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, trade, investment and development policy, and through human rights and technical assistance programs to help ensure that working people everywhere enjoy fundamental labor rights, as defined by the 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and by U.S. law.  In doing so, we work closely with our trading partners, the ILO, the private sector, and the global labor movement.

Related Links:

President Obama’s Leadership Part 1 – LGBT Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 2 – Women’s Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 3 – National Security and Human Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 4 – Civil Society, Open Government, Internet Freedom

President Obama’s Leadership Part 5 – Human Trafficking

President Obama’s Leadership Part 6 – Mass Atrocities

President Obama’s Leadership Part 7 – Religious Freedom

President Obama’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 4)

human rights issuesToday’s post in our ongoing series covering the Obama administration and their leadership on international human rights specifically looks at civil society, open government and Internet freedoms. It can be argued that the Obama administration has shown more leadership for these specific rights abroad than at home, since Edward Snowden isn’t going to get any support for his work for an open government and that were unsure of what steps will be taken regarding the NSA’s spying of Americans. But, below is an overview of what’s been done so far. It will be interesting to see what can be accomplished in the final two years of the Obama presidency.

Supporting and Defending Civil Society

Stand with Civil Society Agenda

In late September, President Obama initiated an intensive, multilateral effort to support and defend civil society from increasing restrictions and enable civil society organizations (CSOs) to contribute to the economic, social, and political development of their countries.  Working through existing institutions and initiatives including the United Nations, the Open Government Partnership, the Community of Democracies, and Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development, the United States will collaborate with other governments, civil society, the philanthropy community, the private sector, and multilateral organizations to: (1) promote laws, policies, and practices that foster a supportive environment for civil society in accordance with international norms; (2) coordinate multilateral, diplomatic pressure to roll back restrictions being imposed on civil society; and (3) identify new and innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to civil society.

Real Help in Real Time for Threatened CSOs

The United States is partnering with 18 other governments and foundations through the Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund to offer emergency financial assistance when civic groups are threatened.  Since its founding in 2011, Lifeline has assisted 255 civil society organizations in 69 countries to increase their safety.

Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders

In 2013 alone, the United States invested $500 million to strengthen the work of CSOs across development sectors, with a particular focus on developing the next generation of civil society leaders.  Through the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative and recently-launched Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, the United States is enhancing the capacity, leadership skills, and connections between young leaders committed to building strong democratic institutions and working with government to address common challenges.

Open Government Partnership

The United States is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership  (OGP), a global effort to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, harness new technologies, and transform the way governments serve and engage with their citizens.  In just over 24 months, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has grown from eight to over 60 countries, which have embraced the key principles of open government – promoting transparency, fighting corruption, and energizing civic engagement through new technologies and approaches to strengthen the democratic foundations of our own countries.  The United States has worked both domestically and internationally to ensure global support for Open Government principles.  We have made important progress to improve the ability of citizens to obtain access to government records, released government data that fuels entrepreneurship and innovation, and increased government spending transparency.

Internet Freedom

With over 120 million in Internet freedom grants since 2008, the United States has made Internet freedom a central program and foreign policy priority.  Programs focus on supporting the development of technology tools to assist activists in highly repressive environments; advocacy programs; training and rapid response to keep activists from harm or advocate for them if in danger; and applied research to help develop strategic responses to Internet repression.  The United States helped to organize the Freedom Online Coalition, a cross-regional group of 21 governments that collaborate on Internet freedom. The U.S. and the Freedom Online Coalition worked to pass, by unanimous consensus, a landmark 2012 resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council affirming that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.  The United States has also continued to support a free and open Internet and the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance, where all interested parties — industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments — participate on an equal footing.

Related Links:

Obama on Human Rights Part 1 – Advancing LGBT Rights

Obama on Human Rights Part 2 – Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women

Obama on Human Rights Part 3 – National Security and Human Rights

Obama Administration’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 3)

armed drones and lethal force

Source: The Guardian

“Advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to our foreign policy.  It is what our history and our values demand, but it’s also profoundly in our interests.  That is why the United States remains firmly committed to promoting freedom, opportunity and prosperity everywhere.  We stand proudly for the rights of women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities.  We defend the freedom for all people to worship as they choose, and we champion open government and civil society, freedom of assembly and a free press.” – Ambassador Susan E. Rice, December 4, 2013

Ambassador Rice outlines great concepts and values. The US has made excellent progress with the LGBT community and with women’s rights, but hasn’t done so well with national security and human rights. The third part in these series focuses on those issues, and the Obama administration has a lot more leading that it needs to do with this aspect of human rights. Guantanamo Bay is still open, with Shaker Aamer still held indefinitely, and with a continuing hunger strike. It may take time to close it, but more can be done to improve conditions and to get people like Shaker Aamer out of there.

Although the administration phrases it as “standards for taking legal action,” it’s really a euphemism for unmanned drones and lethal force. Even though the proper officials may be briefed on every single strike, there isn’t any explanation or investigation into drone strikes gone awry, such as the one that killed Mamana Bibi. President Obama is the only president with a hit list and people should not be killed without trial or due process. We’ll let you read the rest below to understand what the administration has to say.

National Security and Human Rights

Closing Guantanamo

President Obama remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and erase this blemish on our international credibility.  At the President’s direction, the Departments of State and Defense have brought on new envoys dedicated to this cause, and in August we completed the first successful detainee transfers that were certified under the restrictions that Congress began enacting in 2011.  We are committed to transferring as many detainees as possible under these restrictive provisions, consistent with our security and humane treatment standards, and we expect to be able to announce other transfers in the near future.  We have also begun the periodic review process to carefully evaluate whether the continued detention of certain detainees remains necessary.  As we continue to press to responsibly reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and ultimately close the facility, we have urged to remove the unnecessary, onerous restrictions that have hampered our efforts to do so.

Standards for Taking Lethal Action

Earlier this year, during his comprehensive address at the National Defense University, President Obama announced that he had approved written policy standards and procedures  that formalize and strengthen the Administration’s rigorous process for reviewing and approving operations to capture or employ lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and outside areas of active hostilities.  In that speech the President explained that, beyond the Afghan war theater, the United States only takes strikes against terrorists who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to the American people, where capture is not feasible, and where there is near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.  Congress is briefed on every strike taken as part of these operations, and we are committed to sharing as much information about these activities as possible with the American people and the international community, consistent with our national security needs.  Over time, continued progress against al Qa’ida and associated terrorist groups should reduce the need for such actions.

Intelligence Gathering

In August, President Obama directed a review of the scope of our surveillance capabilities.  Intelligence saves lives—American lives and those of our partners and allies.  While we are committed to continuing to collect such information to meet our critical security needs, we remain mindful of the unprecedented power that technology affords us, and give full consideration to the values of privacy, government transparency, and accountability that we strongly support.