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We Need To Talk About The Maternal Mortality Rate In Texas

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October 27, 2016

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The Lone Star State is known for making legislative decisions that negatively impact reproductive health. From withdrawing Planned Parenthood from HIV testing programs, closing abortion providers , and cutting funding to health programs, the state has created unsafe atmosphere for reproductive health.

Texans are dying of pregnancy-related ailments at a higher rate than the rest of the country and even most other industrialized countries. Black women in Texas account for 30% of maternal deaths and Hispanic women in Texas make up 31% of maternal deaths.

The Texas legislature have used laws and policies to create a grim reality for women living in Texas.

In rural regions of the state, Texans live without a nearby abortion provider and experience long waiting times at local health departments to receive medical treatment and services. Instead the state gives grant money to non-profit organizations that do not offer reproductive health services but affirm pro-life ideologies.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OBGYN with the Texas Evaluation Project, has described the maternal deaths as a “public health, bordering on crisis” issue. Reproductive health care in Texas is subject to a Legislature that make policy decisions for political gain, and not listening to the researchers and health professionals advocating for increased funding and awareness for sexual and reproductive health. As evidenced by the Whole Women’s Health case, Texas will jeopardize women’s health to prove a conservative pro-life agenda that is not reflective on the woman who needs medical services.

For those living in the Rio Grande Valley who are primarily Latina, the cuts in state funding and shutdown of local clinics have contributed to high rates of cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. If someone is seeking abortion services, they either cross into Mexico or drive hundreds miles away for a provider.

The state of health care in Texas will only change through advocating for reproductive rights on a local, state, and federal level. Holding legislators accountable for the policies they enact into office and having your voice heard when they make a decision that further marginalizes reproductive health. Organizations such as Whole Women’s Health, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and local partners within the areas are collaborating on efforts to stop these attacks. We must also young people voices are heard on sexual and reproductive health issues affecting their community on college campuses.

We need to educate ourselves on the state of reproductive health within the areas we live in and voice our discomfort if our legislators are putting our health at risk. We have the power to elect who represent us so it’s our responsibility to ensure the representative is doing their job. We have power and a voice, and we need to use it.

I’m making a pledge to research and work with local organizations and partners in my area to find out what public health issue is affecting women and queer folks and how I can help. I encourage you to do the same and invite others to join because there is unity in numbers. It’s 2016, and we can’t continue to allow legislators and state to put our health at risk.

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