TitleMaternal Mortality as a Human Rights Issue: Measuring Compliance with International Treaty Obligations
AuthorsYamin A. E., Maine D.
PublicationHuman Rights Quarterly. 1999 Jan; 21(3):563-607.
AbstractIn too many places around the globe, not much has changed since Martin Luther wrote, in the sixteenth century, "And even if women bear themselves weary or they bear themselves out that does not hurt. Let them bear themselves out. This is the purpose for which they exist." 1 Women in developing countries are bleeding to death after giving birth, writhing in the convulsions of eclampsia, and collapsing from days of futile contractions, knowing that they have suffocated their babies to death. 2 The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimate that close to 600,000 women and girls die each year from complications of pregnancy or childbirth, despite the fact that technology [End Page 563] that has been available for decades could have been used to avoid these deaths. 3 Maternal mortality is the leading cause of premature death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. 4 Furthermore, the burden of maternal mortality is not evenly distributed. Ninety-nine percent of pregnancy-related deaths occur in developing countries 5 --and of course, only women are at risk of this fate. Moreover, according to the World Bank, although men and women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four lose approximately the same number of years of healthy life due to disease, there is no single cause of death and disability for men that comes close to the magnitude of maternal death and disability. 6