Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many babies die. Too many new Moms die. Too many babies are born prematurely. Too many babies are born with birth defects. Too many pregnant women don’t get adequate prenatal care.
Some Arizona counties have been labeled maternal health deserts because of lack of medical care. Cochise, Graham, Gila, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma are the worst off. Around 50% of the babies born in Arizona are born to unwed mothers (which makes them more likely to live in poverty with their Moms.) And around 50% of the live births are funded by AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program).
Arizona’s lack of attention to maternal and child health and our stingy social safety net policies have exacerbated the situation and cost the state lives and money. Each premature baby born under AHCCCS costs the state around $1 million. How many of these one-million-dollar babies are accidents due to lack of access to affordable birth control and the scarcity of women’s health clinics, particularly in rural Arizona? We should be funding women’s health and well baby clinics in rural Arizona and should be hiring community health workers to do outreach with pregnant women and new Moms. You can hire an army of community health workers for the cost of one or two premature babies.
Senator Kate Brophy-McGee’s bill (SB1040) to look at maternal death data is a tiny drop in the swimming-pool-sized bucket of maternal and child health issues facing our state. According to the March of Dimes, maternal death in Arizona is “on a trajectory” upward. The Arizona Department of Health Services has not looked at the maternal death data since 2015.
Arizona has been touted as one of the most pro life states in the United States. If we are really pro life, we should be putting our money where our mouths are. The Arizona Legislature has $1 billion extra to spend this year. The Republicans are busy trying to give our money away in tax breaks, so they can go back to austerity and budget cutting.
Women and babies are dying from preventable causes! It is time to open up the state’s coin purse and spend money where it is needed, on public health.
Here is a link to the March of Dimes report on maternal and child health.