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“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” —Acts 2:4

Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women
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Susan Jackson-Dowd
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donating quarters for safe birth

Gathering attendees donate quarters to fund safe births for women globally. Each filled tube yielded the $25 needed to fund a safe birth. Photo by Meagan Manas.

Ensuring health for mothers worldwide

By Meagan Manas

It can be hard to imagine that an event as common as birth contributes to the death of one woman every two minutes somewhere in our world.[1] For each of these deaths, many more women are left with childbirth-related injuries. It’s nearly impossible to collect accurate data, as the women who suffer most live in the poorest and most remote parts of our world. And no matter where you live, the topic of women’s bodies can be taboo.

An estimated 85 percent of global maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.[2] India and Nigeria alone account for one third of global maternal deaths.[3] But injustice and inequity are here at home too—the United States has one of the worst maternal mortality rates of the top 40 industrialized nations.[4]

The causes of maternal deaths, or injuries related to childbirth, are remarkably similar whether in Nigeria or Nebraska: poverty; lack of transportation to hospitals; lack of medical supplies; under-nutrition that causes developmental delays; lack of access to medical care based on money, prejudice, or mistrust; and cultures in which women do not have control over their lives, where women’s voices are not heard and trusted.

Our faith points to the importance of ensuring that mothers and children have a chance. Jesus the Christ, the one who would redeem our very souls, spent his first nine months on earth inside the body of a woman. As a young, poor girl, Mary almost certainly lacked access to the best medical care, hardly what we would want for the savior of the world. Jesus, like all of us, was born, and this fact of our faith impels us to work for safe and healthy births for all.

Here’s how to take action:

1. Disturbed by the disparities in maternal health in the United States based on race, Women’s Ministries of the National Council of Churches is starting a project called “Due Season: A Faith-filled Roadmap for Eliminating Racial Disparities in Maternal Health.” Learn more and sign up for their mailing list.

2. Participate in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s International Health and Development program called “Healthy Women, Healthy Families,” with ways to get involved on Mother’s Day. 

3. Presbyterian Women is partnering with Bread for the World and about 15 other church women’s organizations in the 1,000 Days Movement, which aims to improve nutrition for mothers and their children in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. By improving nutrition for women and children in this critical window, we have the opportunity to stop the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition and to give children a better start to life. Join the conversation.

4. Every year an estimated 48 million women give birth without someone with the proper medical skills or equipment present. Direct Relief International is an organization based in Santa Barbara, California, that has as its goal the delivery of medical supplies and equipment where they are needed most at home and around the world. Only $25 ensures one healthy birth. Learn more and donate.

Note: Meagan originally presented this information during the Friday, July 20 plenary.


[2] WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and World Bank publication: Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990-2010

[3] WHO et al

[4] Amnesty International “Deadly Delivery”

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