Maternal Healthcare Crisis as a Justification for Healthcare Reform

Today, I had an article pointed out to me published on the website of an organization called Change.org. It was under the heading of Human Rights. The article,  A Maternal Mortality FAIL in the U.S., was written by a Harvard professor, Alicia Ely Yamin.

The article states that Ms. Yamin ” is currently a Joseph H. Flom Fellow on Global Health and Human Rights at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

To support her thesis Ms. Yamin claims that “the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the U.S. is five times greater than in Greece.”

To further support her contention, she also claims that “African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. These rates and disparities have not improved in more than 20 years.”

Then she goes on to iterate Amnesty International’s assertion that “this is not just a public health scandal; it reflects widespread violations of women’s human rights, including the right to life, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Patterns of marginalization and exclusion in this society are exacerbated by a discriminatory and dysfunctional health system.”

After a little more haranguing, she finally gets to her point, “Join Amnesty International USA in calling on President Obama to establish an Office of Maternal Health to lead government efforts to reduce the appalling U.S. death rate for women having babies.”

If you click on this highlighted link, it will take you to an Amnesty International site where you can sign and submit a form letter. So, have at it, but … before you do …, think … and do a little of your own research.

A little “googling” will, fairly quickly, reveal some sites that present some data on maternal mortality. Maternal mortality (most recent) by country presents data gathered by UNICEF between 1985 and 1999 which was published in 2002. WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank Estimates of Maternal Mortality 2005 is self explanatory and more recent.

Data is data and, unfortunately, can frequently be cherry picked to try to prove one’s point … if one is so inclined.

For instance, let’s look at Ms. Yamin’s claim that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is five times that of Greece’s. She needs to check her math. A look at the 2005 data reveals that the U.S. rate is 3.67 times that of Greece, down from 8 times that of Greece in 2002.

A little “cherry-picking” of data will quickly reveal that while Greece’s maternal mortality rate between 2002 and 2005 has increased by 300%, the U.S. maternal mortality rate has only increased by 37.5%. Does this mean that Greece’s maternal healthcare system has collapsed along with their socialist economy?

And what does this prove? The incidence of maternal mortality is so minuscule in the countries cited that slight changes can produce exaggerated and preposterous claims. Between 2002 and 2005, maternal mortality in both the U.S. and Greece varied by two to three deaths per 100,000 births.

Frankly, comparing Greece’s rather homogeneous population of 11 million with the rather diverse U.S. population of 300 million is a bit of a stretch. Review of the data reveals that the U.S. maternal morbidity rate is actually on par with other industrialized nations which, quite frankly, is rather remarkable considering its diversity in many ways. And, I think the U.S. Constitution was designed to guarantee individual freedom with the right to make choices, good or bad, and not an inherent “right to the highest attainable standard of health” as conceived by and forced upon the population by a central government.

In 2002, U.S. maternal mortality per 100,000 births was 8 … the same as Germany and Japan. In the short span of three years the numbers changed to 11, 4 and 6 for the U.S., Germany and Japan, respectively. Does this mean that, in three short years, the U.S. has degenerated into a chaotic state of crisis brimming with anti-feminine discrimination, while Germany and Japan have become absolute models of virtue and feminine equality?

Of further interest, while, from 2002 to 2007, the birth rate in the U.S. increased from 13.9 to 14.3 per 1000 population; from 2003 to 2009, the birthrate in Greece declined from 9.79 to 9.45/1000. During the same period Germany declined from 8.6 to 8.18 and Japan declined from 9.61 to 7.64.

Could there actually be causes other than Ms. Yamin’s claimed U.S. “violations” of women’s inherent ”
right to the highest attainable standard of health” and “widespread violations of women’s human rights“?

For instance, illegitimacy, … excuse me … births out of wedlock, in the U.S. currently is 26% for Caucasians, 50% for Latinos and 70% for African Americans. The overall illegitimacy rate for the U.S. in 2007 was 39.7% compared to a reported 20% in 2004. I think that has something to do with “freedom of choice” along with  a lack of “responsibility”. Should the government control that too? And what does Amnesty International have to say about that?

In 2004, when the overall illegitimacy rate in the U.S. was around 20%, in Japan, it was about 1%. A current rate, although the year was unspecified, for Greece is 9%. The most recent data I could find on Germany was about 23% in the year 2000.

So, Greece, with a low illegitimacy rate, falling birth rate,universal healthcare and relatively homogeneous population has seen its maternal mortality rate triple. Germany, with a moderately high illegitimacy rate, falling birth rate, universal healthcare and, again, a relatively homogeneous population has seen its maternal mortality decline by half. Japan, on the other hand, also with universal healthcare, an extremely low illegitimacy rate, markedly falling birth rate and very homogenous population has only decreased their maternal mortality rate by 25%.

What does all of this prove? Nothing … the same as Ms. Yamin’s irrational, albeit Amnesty International inspired, rant against the U.S. But, it might bring to question some of Ms. Yamin’s more irrational contentions.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but … don’t women, as a rule, avail themselves of the healthcare system a lot more than men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing women for following recommended guidelines regarding their health, but it hardly makes a case for the healthcare system discriminating against the very people who use it most frequently. It could also be the reason that the healthcare costs for women are more than for men. Anyone with a ounce of sense knows that it cost more to drive your car 20,000 miles than it does if you only drive it 10,000 miles. That doesn’t mean you didn’t need to drive it more, but you should expect it to cost more.

And, why would a system with an overwhelming number of women as a part of it discriminate against its most frequent users, women? If anything, the greatest conflict within the system is trying to balance the desires and needs of the changing lifestyles of the women that work in the system with the desires and needs of the changing lifestyles of the women that use it. Physicians, both male and female, in private practice frequently find themselves trying to work out this quandary of staff versus patients while frequently neglecting their own lives and families.

I do think that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to make educated and informed decisions about her health. It would be nice if young women would wait to make important life changing decisions about their personal health and welfare until they are older and more capable of making more informed decisions. It might have a tremendous impact on the data. I haven’t seen the demographic breakdown regarding the ages involved in maternal mortality, but I was taught that a teenage pregnancy was “high risk” by definition. I wonder if that has anything to do with the data.

Shoddy, sophomoric propaganda, … even from a Harvard professor …, is still … shoddy, sophomoric propaganda. And picking Greece, a failing socialist economy with rising maternal mortality, for comparison was just plain dumb.

My Director of Medical Education would have filed this article under the heading of “worthless crap” … more suitable for brainwashing a class of first graders than being brainlessly assimilated by adults. But she does know her usual audience, right?

Amnesty International … it figures. Ms. Yamin, Harvard University … SHAME!!!

“Earl Says … ” Blog is Featured on WordPress’ 10/2/2008 “Blogs about: Harvard Law School”

Well, I did mention Harvard Law School once in that particular blog. It was actually a rail against the New York Times specifically … and lawyers in general with a reference to Senator Obama and his alma mater.

New York Times Slaps Down McCain Op Ed is the featured article on Harvard Law School — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress on 10/2/2008.
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New York Times Slaps Down McCain Op Ed

Wow!!

Somehow, I thought this was the United States … and New York City was part of it … and the New York Times supported democracy … and free speech. Apparently like a two-bit, tin-horn dictator, the New York Times only supports freedom of speech when it adheres to their political agenda. I would be the first to vote for the New York Times to receive the Hugo Chavez/Fidel Castro Award for Journalistic Freedom.

Since John McCain won’t declare a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the Times won’t publish his op ed. Since John McCain has steadfastly been opposed to a declared timetable, doesn’t this, in essence, amount to journalistic blackmail and political censorship?

Since the staff of the New York Times is an ardent supporter of Barack Obama, is this an indication of the direction that Obama’s policies on freedom of speech and political dissidence will take? I suppose the disturbing thing about this is that I’ve been listening to Democratic pundits defending the New York Times editorial position all day. I doubt that Obama himself will have anything to say about it since his usual tactic is to allow his cronies to deal with his dirty work while maintaining “plausible deniability”. Yet, that’s probably the smart thing to do, since it usually takes his campaign advisors at least four days to figure out an appropriate response and Obama rarely shows the capacity to think on his feet. Smart, intellectually adroit lawyers can actually practice their profession in the courtroom. The rest teach, work for the broadcast media where their opinions are scripted, or practice in other areas, like politics, where the demands on their mental capacity isn’t acutely challenged. Is that why Obama returned to South Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law School … to hide in the womb of like minded people who wouldn’t challenge him?

Barack’s No Athlete

Sure, he played basketball in high school in Hawaii. And, he practiced for hours on his own after school … so his coach says. No, he didn’t make the first team, but that’s really irrelevant.

Being an athlete is more that physical prowess and athletic ability. It is a state of mind.

The state of mind consists of an attitude which can accept defeat and continue to perform to the best of your ability on any defined field of competition.

That attitude is even more critical as the leader or captain of the team … or as the quarterback. That person has to lead and inspire his team mates in each arena of competition. He can’t stick his thumb in his mouth and go sulk in the locker room.

Playing “one on one” may be fun as far as a street sport goes but it has nothing to do with a team effort or leadership.

By not accepting the debate challenge in North Carolina, Barack Obama has shown the lack of a fundamental ability to lead and inspire. Leadership is about vigorously accepting challenges and not simply playing it safe. People who play it safe really aren’t winners and as leaders they lack the essential character to lead and inspire.

Barack Obama, as a graduate of Harvard Law School and Editor of the Harvard Law Review, is supposed to be the cream of the cream of the crop. His unwillingness to debate Hillary Clinton seems to be an admission that he knows he can’t beat Hillary in a debate.

Maybe Harvard Law School isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Maybe Barack’s days as a bench warmer in Hawaii were prophetic. Maybe his reluctance to compete in debates is a simple admission of the truth … that he can’t.

Maybe he needs to go practice some more for right now and leave the game and the leadership to the first string. The country has a need right now for a leader who won’t go hide in then locker room when the going gets tough.

Barack Obama said, “I speak in paragraphs.”

Well, Barack. I speak in English.

Last night, during his segment of the “Compassion Forum” sponsored by CNN in Pennsylvania, Barack in apparent frustration stated, “I speak in paragraphs”, an apparent allusion to many of his statements, or mis-statements being taken “out of context”.

Okay. As I said, “I speak in English.”

English is comprised of “words” which, when put together can form “phrases” which when put together can make sentences which when joined with other sentences can form paragraphs. Each at their own level can have significant meaning.

Barack, this is more fundamental and basic than English 101. Get a grip. Take a refresher course if necessary. I’m sorry that an elitist American education didn’t point this out to you. I learned this in Podunk, Georgia. I didn’t need to go to Columbia or Harvard for this to sink in.

I’ve read that the hardest part of Harvard is “getting in”, that it’s very hard to “flunk out”. Maybe after 100 plus years of a progressive educational program, they should rethink their policy. Maybe, at least, they need to consider something remedial in English … in honor of you, Barack.

As a matter of fact, I have two daughters that could teach you. The oldest had a perfect score on the verbal part of the GRE and the youngest has scored an 800 on the verbal part of the SAT. If you’re polite, one of them might consider tutoring you.

Yes, Barack. Words, even taken “out of context” do have meaning. That’s why we have dictionaries so that people, even you, can understand the meaning of words and thus use them in “proper context”.

You should appreciate this when you along with others have been so vocal in criticising various people in their choice of words. It really gets you when it comes back to bite you on the butt, doesn’t it?

When Don Imus had some derogatory and irreverent comments about the women’s basketball team at Princeton, you, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were very quick to call for his job if not his head. Don Imus was derogatory and irreverent of everyone. In the context of his normal dialogue, he treated them no differently from the way he treated anyone else. But, he went too far … “in context” or “out of context”. Right?

Well, Barack. You’re going to be held to the same standard you espoused. It’s only fair. Every paragraph, sentence, phrase and word IS going to be parsed … looking for the slightest indication of insensitivity, arrogance and narcissism that you are becoming noted for which is indicative of your true character. The use of the phrase, “typical white person” or the words, “clinging” and “bitter”, do have their own meaning and when taken in the context of additional words like “guns” and “religion” or “antipathy” and “anti-immigrant”, they have even more meaning.

People just don’t like you looking down your nose at them, a nose which, by the way, is also assuming a length fast approaching your shoe size that would make even Pinocchio astonished.

You deserve to be held to the same standard which you use to criticize, deride and defame other people. Welcome to the world outside of South Chicago, Harvard Law School, Columbia University, preppy Hawaii or Indonesia.

Political Posturing or Expecting Common Courtesy?

When radio talk show host, Bob Cunningham, had some very harsh and derogatory comments to make about Barack Obama, John McCain, quickly and personally, disavowed and condemned the comments, indicating his seriousness about trying to maintain a level of civility in the presidential campaign.

Recently, another radio talkshow host, Ed Schultz, referred to John McCain as a warmonger. Following an outcry against Schultz, an Obama spokesperson issued a statement disavowing and condemning Schultz’ characterization of Senator McCain but with the qualification that, after all, McCain is supporting the war in Iraq.

Was that really a disavowal and condemnation of Schultz’s comments about McCain? Why didn’t Obama make the statement himself?

An unnamed Obama supporter on the Giraldo Rivera show on Fox News Saturday night stated that people expressing expectations of presidential candidates were involved in political posturing.

Since when has the expectation of reciprocation of common courtesy become political posturing?

Could it be that the halfhearted and qualified condemnation of Schultz by an Obama underling was realistically as far as Obama felt he could go … and issuing the condemnation would have really put Obama into a fit of stuttering? Who knows, maybe he will issue a condemnation himself in several days … after he’s had enough time to practice it.

After all, when the Jeremiah Wright fiasco broke, Obama flatly denied knowledge of Wright’s comments and beliefs for two days. Not stuttering when saying “NO” must be relatively easy. It was another four days before he had his speech polished enough to reverse himself and admit that he had known all along about Wright’s inflammatory tendencies.

Political posturing or not, expecting Obama to show common courtesy to his political adversaries is a real stretch. It’s his way of “being above the fray”. How convenient. Apparently, being courteous isn’t a prerequisite for Columbia University or Harvard Law School and learning it isn’t a requirement for graduation either. Why am I not surprised?

There’s a favorite saying in South Carolina that goes like this, “You can take Clemson out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of Clemson.”

For those unfamiliar with Clemson University, it has South Carolina’s premiere agricultural college.

Likewise, you can take Barack Obama out of South Chicago, but you can’t take South Chicago out of Barack Obama.

Maybe a better analogy would be, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”