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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 15th July 2016 > DEATH AFTER BIRTH


The racist policies behind the embarrassingly high maternal mortality rates in the U.S.

ANIKA CRENSHAW planned on a vaginal birth for her second child, as she had done with her daughter a few years earlier. But soon after she arrived at the hospital in 1998, she began experiencing some light bleeding, and a nurse entered the room with a razor and a catheter and told Crenshaw she was about to undergo a cesarean section.

“It just happened so fast,” Crenshaw says. “It was very traumatic. No one explained anything to me about the procedure or the risks. It wasn’t an emergency, but they just threw some papers at me and said I had to sign them. When I woke up, I felt horrible. Physically unstable and emotionally dead.” It got worse: Crenshaw contracted an infection, and recovery took months.

Seven years later, when giving birth to her third child, she underwent another C-section, and again said she felt “duped.” When she became pregnant with her fourth in 2013, she decided to try a home birth to avoid the hospital.

Crenshaw was one of the 60,000 women a year in the U.S. who experience near-fatal complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and these women are the fortunate ones—about 1,200 more die. Even more troubling is that despite tremendous advances in medicine in recent decades, maternal mortality rates in the U.S. have more than doubled over the past 25 years. That trend puts the U.S. in the same category as Afghanistan, Belize and South Sudan. In fact, the U.S. is the only developed country with rising mortality rates, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Save the Children ranks the U.S. 61st in the world when it comes to maternal health—despite the fact that the U.S. spends more than every other country on Earth on health care and more on childbirth-related care than any other area of hospitalization.

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Can Europe Save Itself? - On the morning after the Brexit vote, a dazed Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, a body consisting of the heads of government of the 28 countries in the European Union, was asked to react to the historic vote. Ironically, he quoted Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century philosopher whose work influenced the rise of German militarism that led to two world wars - the conflagrations the EU was designed to prevent from happening again. “What doesn’t kill you,” Tusk proclaimed, “makes you stronger.”