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New research: How global maternal mortality rates are mirrored in US election results

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New research: How global maternal mortality rates are mirrored in US election results

Global maternal mortality rates rise and fall depending on which political party is in power in the US, a new study shows.

Professor Sonia Bhalotra and colleagues estimated the impact of switching on and off the ‘Global Gag Rule’ (GGR), a pro-life policy that prohibits aid to overseas non-governmental organisations offering family planning services. Since it was first implemented by President Reagan in 1984, it has been enacted under every Republican president and revoked under every Democrat.

The researchers demonstrate that, on average, overseas aid for family planning has been 48% higher under Democratic governments.

The swings in aid driven by US political party are, naturally, greatest for countries that have an above-median reliance on US aid. For these countries, a switch from a Democratic to Republican government is associated with an 8% increase in maternal deaths, or 0.6 more deaths per 1000 women.

The research has significant implications for the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Health and Gender Equality. An increase in maternal deaths of 8% erodes one fifth of the average world-wide decline in maternal mortality achieved during 1990-2017.

Professor Bhalotra said: “Previous research has shown that GGR-related cuts in US aid have had a major impact on health services for women in developing countries, for example resulting in reduced access to safe abortion and contraception, as well as reduced capacity for broader maternal health services such as HIV prevention and treatment.”

“Our study presents the first large scale estimates of the maternal death toll of the GGR and reveals the devastating loss of life and life quality among millions of women that results from the lottery of American election outcomes.”

Read the full policy briefing: Bhalotra, S., Clarke, D., Mühlrad, H. and Fernández Sierra, M. (2022) 'US Presidential Party Switches are Mirrored in Global Maternal Mortality', CAGE Policy Briefing 35.