A new study shows that the number of women dying from pregnancy complications in Texas has inexplicably doubled, a trend that seems isolated to the Lone Star State.
The findings are set to be published in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology
, a peer-reviewed medical journal that is the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. While the study's authors don't speculate as to what has caused this trend, they do note an interesting coincidence in timing: maternal mortality rates soared right after the Texas Legislature slashed funding to Planned Parenthood in 2011.
Five years ago, legislators cut the state's family-planning budget
from $111.5 million to $37.9 million, which was just the beginning of a years-long campaign to defund Planned Parenthood in the state.
However, the researchers can't say whether the troubling trend is linked to those 2011 cuts. Vital statistics personnel in Texas and at the National Center for Health Statistics couldn't tell the authors whether the dramatic uptick was due to any kind of data processing or coding changes. "There were some changes in the provision of women's health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women's health clinics," the study states. "Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely." To further explore what is happening, the authors are planning to study Texas data by ethnicity to better understand detailed causes behind what they call an unusual finding.
In 2013, Texas created a task force to study pregnancy-related deaths, but so far its work has been slow going. On September 1, the working group will submit a report
on its findings and recommendations to the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House of Representatives and appropriate committees. Dr. Lisa Hollier, an obstetrics specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine who leads the task force, tells The Dallas Morning News
that the researchers' findings might be "slightly inflated," but the spike in deaths is undeniable.