Health and Medicine

Maternal Health Amid Covid-19

Repro Nation Monthly | March 2023
The staggering effects of Covid-19 on pregnancy
As we await a decision on whether Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will deem unlawful the FDA’s 23-year-old approval of mifepristone, the CDC has released new data showing a 40 percent increase in maternal deaths between 2020 and 2021. This is after the CDC announced, in September, that 84 percent of maternal deaths that occurred between 2017 and 2019 were preventable.


Can we all just sit with that for a moment?


We created this newsletter with the express goal of not bumming people out. So I guess I’m breaking a rule by digging into this data. But the numbers are deeply disturbing and deserve to be spotlighted. As Wanda Irving—whose daughter Sharon Irving died in 2017, three weeks after delivering her baby girl—told NPR, “People need to understand the tremendous devastation that is caused by maternal mortality and the loss to society as well as to the families.”


Sharon Irving worked as an epidemiologist at the CDC. Hospital doctors kept sending her home after she raised concerns about how she was feeling in the final weeks of her pregnancy. She collapsed three weeks after she gave birth and never woke up.


In 2021, Black women continued to have the highest maternal mortality rate, at 69.9 per 100,000 live births, or 2.6 times the rate of white women, according to the CDC data.. (Some older studies suggest the rate is actually around three times that of white women)


Moira Donegan reminds us that this data was collected before the Dobbs decision, when maternal care undeniably got worse around the country, with doctors now doing even more harm to their patients by denying them the care they need.


“This means that pregnant women are getting sicker, and waiting longer for care,” writes Donegan, who also explained how negligence and contempt aimed at Black women contributes to the alarming rates of maternal death. “More bodies will accumulate; more lives will be cut short; more women will be lost to the cruelty, indifference, scarcity, and fear that now pervades our medical system.”


Now a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, is poised to decide on a challenge to the FDA’s approval of an essential and overwhelmingly safe medication for abortion, mifepristone. Kacsmaryk’s convictions against abortion are well known, and the panic people feel over his impending decision is not only justified; it also feels like not enough. I am hopeful that David Cohen is right about a flaw that should end the case. (Cohen, Greer Donley, and Rachel Rebouche have also argued that the judge isn’t the final decision-maker when it comes to taking mifepristone off the market.) In the meantime, I’ll be following this year’s Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), which promises to be a time of “restoring Black autonomy and joy.” If there’s anything we can use right now, it’s some joy.


Regina Mahone

Senior Editor

Amy Littlefield on the Wait for One Dead Woman
I was driving home from meeting my newborn niece when I heard a clip of Amanda Zurawski talking about how she almost died from a miscarriage. Zurawski is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Texas over the state’s abortion bans. Doctors were afraid to end her pregnancy under Texas law after her water broke at 18 weeks, so she waited for days, getting sicker and sicker. She wound up in the ICU, her family gathered around, waiting for her to die.


I felt a nauseating sense of déjà vu. Even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I reported on Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform abortions unless a patient is deemed close enough to death. With Roe gone, these stories of almost-dead women emerge with disturbing regularity—just last week came the story of a woman in Tennessee forced to carry a dangerous pregnancy that was growing into her C-section scar.


In Ireland, the death of one woman in a circumstance like Amanda Zurawski’s led to a popular uprising and a repeal of the country’s abortion ban.


Who will our dead woman be? Will she be enough?


Read more here.

Where Is Abortion Legal?

How to Get an Abortion

How to Use Abortion Pills

If/When/How Repro Legal Helpline

Digital Security and Abortion Guide

Find Help Paying for an Abortion

More Info on Mutual Aid Networks

Abortion, Explained

More Abortion Resources

Abortion Access for a Young Person

Abortion Access for Immigrants

Pregnancy Criminalization, Explained

Buy Needed Items for Abortion Providers Nationwide
Share Your Story of Poor-Quality Care Post-Roe
Solidarity with Polish abortion rights activist, Justyna Wydrzyńska who was accused of helping someone access abortion pills was found “guilty of providing aid” in Poland.


No one should be punished for helping someone access time-sensitive & essential abortion care #IAmJustyna.


Via @liberaljanee


More From The Nation
The Movement Behind the Judge and the Junk Science Poised to Block Access to Mifepristone
Thanks to Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Christian right has found a court in Texas where it thinks it can win rulings that erode abortion access even in states keeping it legal.
For Women’s History Month, Let’s Make History
We can celebrate our progress, but this is no time to rest on our laurels. There’s still a lot to do—and to defend.
Florida Judges Have the Power to Force Young People to Give Birth
Everything from their grades to their demeanor in the courtroom is fair game for a judge’s veto power.


Arizona Prisoners Find Hope in Their Fight Against Forced Inductions
A bill seeking to end the practice has languished without a hearing. Bill sponsor Athena Salman is not giving up, and neither are pregnant people in custody.


Read all of the latest abortion news and analysis from The Nation here.
What We’re Reading

Pregnancy Is Not a Benign Event (Jezebel)

Meet the Fayetteville Doula Fighting to Improve Black Maternal Health, Infant Mortality Rates (The Fayetteville Observer)

It’s Dangerous for Black Women to Give Birth in Texas, and It Could Be About to Get Worse (The Guardian)

Read the Transcript: What Happened Inside the Federal Hearing on Abortion Pills (NPR)

Polish Court Convicts Rights Activist for Supplying Pregnant Woman With Abortion Pills (CNN)

Doctors Warned Her Pregnancy Could Kill Her. Then Tennessee Outlawed Abortion. (ProPublica)

What Clinicians Want You to Know About Getting Abortion Pills in Anti-Abortion States (Ms. Magazine)

Texas Removed Six Black Children From Their Homes. Their Adoptive Parents Drove Them Off a Cliff. (Texas Tribune)

Abortion Training In Texas Is Vanishing (Texas Observer)

Exclusive: How One Abortion Pill Service Collapsed Just After Launch (Rewire News Group – 3/9)

Misoprostol-Only Abortion: Here’s What You Need to Know (Reckon)

Police Are Prosecuting Abortion Seekers Using Their Digital Data — and Facebook and Google Help Them Do It (Business Insider)

The Stakes in the Texas Abortion Medication Suit Are Broader Than Just One Pill (Washington Post)

South Carolina Woman Arrested for Allegedly Taking Abortion Pills (Mother Jones)

‘Dangerous and Unacceptable’: White House Condemns Efforts to Stop Pharmacies From Dispensing Abortion Pills (Politico)

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