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Statement of U.S. Delegation on Maternal Mortality
June 14, 2010

Thirty four percent of maternal deaths stem from unintended pregnancies, and yet over 215 million women still lack access to modern forms of contraception. (USAID Photo)


Panel on Maternal Mortality

Statement of the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 14th Session

Geneva, June 14, 2010

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Mr. President.

We thank the delegations of New Zealand and Colombia for their important work on this human rights issue, and to the Office of the High Commissioner for convening this panel.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of women die from largely preventable complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Thirty four percent of maternal deaths stem from unintended pregnancies, and yet over 215 million women still lack access to modern forms of contraception. Millennium Development Goal 5, aimed at reducing maternal mortality by three quarters and ensuring universal reproductive health by 2015, is the least realized Millenium Development Goal.

These statistics are not only grim, they are intolerable.

This is by no means solely a problem of the developing world. In the United States we struggle with these challenges. We have put in place many important tools to combat maternal mortality. In addition to the new health care reform legislation that will expand coverage and improve access to preventive care, the United States has programs such as ‘Healthy Start’, which provides primary and preventive care to high-risk pregnant women.

The global community needs a strong commitment to do more to strengthen health systems to better respond to women’s health needs.

The Obama Administration is committed to reducing maternal mortality worldwide through the Global Health Initiative, a 63 billion dollar proposal to help countries improve health outcomes through strengthened health systems, with a focus on the health of women, newborns and children.

This year presents a unique moment for the world to renew efforts to reduce the incidence of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. We applaud the Human Rights Council for addressing this human rights issue, as the unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality is directly linked to persistent gender inequalities. Such inequalities are tied into gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, lack of education, lack of economic opportunity, and unequal access to adequate health services. We need to address the myriad economic, cultural, social, and legal barriers that impede women’s access to needed health care.

The U.S. also welcomes the opportunity to address this issue with the U N Secretary General, who is convening a much-needed global effort to promote women’s and children’s health.

We have two recommendations for your consideration:

  • We need to increase the use of interventions that have been proven to help save women’s lives. These include skilled birth attendance, access to emergency obstetric care, pre- and post-natal care, and access to family planning.
  • We need to elevate this issue in our development programs and diplomatic portfolios, particularly as we approach the MDG Summit this fall.

Thank you, Mr. President.