Roundup: It’s Good To Be Pregnant, Unless You’re Here

Robin Marty

Maternal mortality rates are rising in the U.S. while they decline in other countries.  How does that happen?

It defies common sense, but in a recent study from Lancet Journal, the facts cannot be ignored: first world countries have a maternal mortality problem.

British women are more likely to die in childbirth than those in the former communist state of Slovenia, new research has shown.

Just as many British women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth as they were 20 years ago, according to a study in the Lancet.

It blames the high death rate on a rise in obesity which can cause complications, the growing number of older mothers and the high immigrant population, who often attend antenatal classes later.

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Eight out of every 100,000 pregnant women die shortly before, during or after giving birth in the UK.

The UK’s death rate is worse than that of Albania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

And it is twice that of Italy, which is the lowest in the world.

After Italy, the safest countries in the world to give birth are Sweden, Luxembourg and Australia.

While the majority of Western European countries have seen a drop in their death rates between 1990 and 2008, Britain’s has remained stagnant.

Our languishing death rate contrasts strikingly with those seen in the developing world, where death rates are falling rapidly among women in childbirth.

Globally the number of childbirth deaths has dropped from more than 500,000 a year in 1980 to 343,000 a year in 2008.

Sadly, North America is in the same boat, according to the study.

Deaths of women in and around childbirth have gone down by an average of 35 percent globally, but are surprisingly high in the United States, Canada and Norway, researchers reported on Monday.   

Here are some statistics from the study by Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published in the Lancet medical journal.


* Maternal mortality is defined as the death of women during pregnancy, childbirth or in the 42 days after delivery.


* The maternal mortality rate rose 42 percent in the United States, from 12 per 100,000 in 1980 to 17 per 100,000 in 2008.

  * Canada’s rate fluctuated between seven and six and was seven per 100,000 in 2008.

Want a stark look at the difference between the United States and other countries?  This graph makes it very clear how big the problem is.

On the one hand, these statistics help us see that the work being done to provide healthier pregnancies in other countries is truly working.  But although rising rates in mortality in this country and England can be attributed in some parts to advanced maternal age and rising obesity rates, there is also an elephant in the closet no one wants to address — our country’s new approach to putting politics over prenatal health. 

From Nebraska’s recent removal of prenatal care to low income women, to Arizona’s state funding cuts to programs that provide care to pregnant addicts, more and more states are seeing prenatal care for “less deserving” as an appropriate place to trim costs.  At the same time, they then allow targeted anti-choice interests to attack groups that do provide, among other services, prenatal care and reproductive assistance, in the name of “shutting off abortion.”

Maybe when we care about mothers as much as we claim to care about the “babies” our rates will start to decline as well.

Mini Roundup: You think I’m all serious and no fun?  How about some Lady Gaga celebacy links to prove otherwise?

April 12, 2010

What Bart Stupak Got Right – The Nation

Plemmons: Abortion bills aim to protect, not restrict pregnant women –

“National Battle” Looms for Stupak’s House Seat – The New American

Vanishing abortion rights – Albany Times Union

Critics call Pawlenty’s Abortion Recovery Month ‘pure politics’ – Minnesota Independent

King, Bachmann co-opt abortion rights message to attack health reform – Iowa Independent

Stupak will retire, cites health reform law as main accomplishment – U.S. Catholic magazine

The New Health-Care Fight: Abortion Coverage in State Exchanges – Newsweek

Rep. Stupak to retire from House – USA Today

New pre-abortion requirements passed in Neb. – Washington Post

3rd Circuit revives group’s fight for NJ ‘Choose Life’ plates – First Amendment Center

‘Abortion Recovery Month’ – Politico

Abuse and abortion – Salt Lake Tribune

Abortion doctor loses medical license for terminating the wrong fetus –

Nebraska: Pre-Abortion Screening Approved – New York Times

Bridgeport Diocese Fights to Protect “Property,” But What About the Children? – Huffington Post

Boccieri doesn’t back down from health care vote – Canton Repository

Abortion Clinic Anesthetist Accused of Infecting 12 Women with Hepatitis C – Lifesite

Kirsten Johnson: Can Southworth be that naive? –

Infertility comes with costs, challenges – Tampa Tribune

Associate Prof fired due to second child – Global Times

Family planning efforts to be intensified – New Vision

Putting Gaia On The Pill – Atlantic Online

Lady Gaga Tells Fans: ‘Don’t Have Sex’ – People Magazine

Lady Gaga shocker: ‘I don’t have sex’ (video) –

Mother’s Day cervical cancer awareness –

FACTBOX: Maternal deaths down in poor countries, up in U.S. – Reuters India

British women more likely to die in childbirth than those in former communist … – Daily Mail

April 13, 2010

Health care law likely to result in increased abortion numbers  – In-Forum

Amendment would strengthen abortion coercion legislation –

Abortion Split Shades Michigan Race –

Dubious of Obama’s intent on abortions – Chicago Daily Herald

Hoekstra: Stupak made ‘tragic mistake’ backing Obama health reform; voters … – The Saginaw News –

Media, Groups Reflect On Justice Stevens’ Liberal Legacy – Medical News Today

Antiabortion-Rights Advocates ‘Keep Hammering Away’ At Rights, Opinion Piece Says – Medical News Today

Manatee County shifts its sex-ed approach – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

No sex life, no problem for Gaga – Metro Canada – Vancouver

AIDS Drug Access Bill Clears Key Florida Legislative Committee, Notes AHF –

Lady Gaga urges fans not to have sex – Gaea Times

HIV/Aids among military forces alarming, says President Kikwete – The Citizen Daily

Debate about scrapped HIV vaccination centre hits health committee – Vancouver Sun

Gilead Sciences starts HIV ‘quad’ test – San Francisco Business Times

Programs that help mothers, children may be in jeopardy – Arizona Republic

Fewer women dying in pregnancy, childbirth –

Maternal mortality: how many women die in childbirth in your country? – The Guardian (blog)

New mothers in Jersey to get healthy snacks – BBC News

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

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Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Commentary Violence

When It Comes to Threats, Online or on the Campaign Trail, It’s Not Up to Women to ‘Suck It Up’

Lauren Rankin

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Bizarre and inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new for this election. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate has made an entire campaign out of it. But during a rally last Tuesday, Donald Trump sunk to a new level. He lamented that if Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, there will be no way to stop her from making judicial nominations.

He said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

For a candidate marred by offensive comment after offensive comment, this language represents a new low, because, as many immediately explained, Trump appears to be making a veiled threat against Clinton, whether he had intended to or not.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called it a “death threat” and Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News host, called it a “direct threat of violence against a political rival.” Former President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis said it was “horrifying,” and even the author of an NRA-linked blog initially tweeted, “That was a threat of violence. As a real supporter of the #2A it’s appalling to me,” before deleting the tweet as the NRA expressed support for Trump.

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This kind of language is violent in nature on its face, but it is also gendered, following in a long line of misogynistic rhetoric this election season. Chants of “kill the bitch” and “hang the bitch” have become common at Trump rallies. These aren’t solely examples of bitter political sniping; these are overt calls for violence.

When women speak out or assert ourselves, we are challenging long-held cultural norms about women’s place and role in society. Offensively gendered language represents an attempt to maintain the status quo. We’ve seen this violent rhetoric online as well. That isn’t an accident. When individuals throw pejorative terms at those of who refuse to be silenced, they are attempting to render public spaces, online or on the campaign trail, unsafe for us.

There is no shortage of examples demonstrating how individuals who feel threatened by subtle power shifts happening in our society have pushed back against those changes. The interactions happening online, on various social media platforms, offer the most vivid examples of the ways in which people are doing their best to try to make public spaces as uncomfortable as possible for marginalized populations.

Social media offers the opportunity for those whose voices are routinely ignored to hold power in a new way. It is a slow but real shift from old, more traditional structures of privileging certain voices to a more egalitarian megaphone, of sorts.

For marginalized populations, particularly women of color and transgender women, social media can provide an opportunity to be seen and heard in ways that didn’t exist before. But it also means coming up against a wall of opposition, often represented in a mundane but omnipresent flow of hatred, abuse, and violent threats from misogynist trolls.

The internet has proven to be a hostile place for women. According to a report from the United Nations, almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. As someone who has received threats of violence myself, I know what it feels like to have sharing your voice met with rage. There are women who experience this kind of violent rhetoric to an even greater degree than I could ever dream.

The list of women who have been inundated with threats of violence could go on for days. Women like Zerlina Maxwell, who was showered with rape threats after saying that we should teach men not to rape; Lindy West received hundreds upon hundreds of violent and threatening messages after she said that she didn’t think rape jokes were funny; Leslie Jones, star of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live, was driven off of Twitter after a coordinated attack of racist, sexist, and violent language against her.

And yet, rarely are such threats taken seriously by the broader community, including by those able to do something about it.

Many people remain woefully unaware of how cruel and outright scary it can be for women online, particularly women with prolific digital profiles. Some simply refuse to see it as a real issue, declaring that “It’s just the internet!” and therefore not indicative of potential physical violence. Law enforcement doesn’t even have a solution, often unwilling to take these threats seriously, as Amanda Hess found out.

This kind of response is reflected in those who are trying to defend Donald Trump after the seemingly indefensible. Despite the overwhelming criticism from many, including some renowned Republicans, we have also seen some Trump supporters try to diminish or outright erase the violent aspect of this clearly threatening rhetoric. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani have both said that they assumed Trump meant get rid of her “by voting.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that it “sounds like just a joke gone bad.”

The violent nature of Donald Trump’s comments seem apparent to almost everyone who heard him. To try to dismiss it as a “joke” or insist that it is those who are offended that are wrong is itself harmful. This is textbook gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse in which a victim’s reality is eroded by telling them that what they experienced isn’t true.

But gaslighting has played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign, with some of his supporters insisting that it is his critics who are overreacting—that it is a culture of political correctness, rather than his inflammatory and oppressive rhetoric, that is the real problem.

This is exactly what women experience online nearly every day, and we are essentially told to just suck it up, that it’s just the internet, that it’s not real. But tell that to Jessica Valenti, who received a death and rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter. Tell that to Anita Sarkeesian, who had to cancel a speech at Utah State after receiving a death threat against her and the entire school. Tell that to Brianna Wu, a game developer who had to flee her home after death threats. Tell that to Hillary Clinton, who is trying to make history as the first woman president, only to have her life threatened by citizens, campaign advisers, and now through a dog whistle spoken by the Republican presidential candidate himself.

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump’s rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Language matters. When that language is cruel, aggressive, or outright violent, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it doesn’t come without consequences. There is a reason that it is culturally unacceptable to say certain words like “cunt” and other derogatory terms; they have a history of harm and oppression, and they are often directly tied to acts of violence. When someone tweets a woman “I hope your boyfriend beats you,” it isn’t just a trolling comment; it reflects the fact that in the United States, more women are killed by intimate partners than by any other perpetrator, that three or more women die every day from intimate partner violence. When Donald Trump not only refuses to decry calls of violence and hate speech at his rallies but in fact comes across as threatening his female opponent, it isn’t just an inflammatory gaffe; it reflects the fact that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Threats of violence have no place in presidential campaigns, but they also have no place online, either. Until we commit ourselves to rooting out violent language against women and to making public spaces safer and more accommodating for women and all marginalized people, Trump’s comments are just par for the course.


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