As women’s health clinics see closure, maternal health crisis worsens

By: - September 6, 2022 3:50 am

Photo by Roberto Westbrook, Getty Images.

A study of years of state data shows an increasing maternal health crisis as the state sees the closure of at least one clinic that addresses pregnancy and maternal health.

The Ohio Department of Health tracked maternal morbidity data, which indicates the status of health outcomes for mothers and infants throughout the state.

The Center for Community Solutions pushed for the study to be done, including testimony by public policy and advocacy director Tara Britton at an April meeting of the state Senate’s Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

“We already know that there is a significant lag in the reporting of this information and think it is imperative that we are informed at least annually about any (of) the reviews of maternal deaths in Ohio, in order to learn from deaths that have occurred and prevent future deaths,” Britton wrote in her testimony.

Now that the study has been released, Britton and public policy and external affairs associate Hope Lane said in an analysis that the study “affirmed what we already knew.”

“Ohio is facing an unprecedented maternal health crisis,” Britton and Lane wrote.

CCS said having the data on morbidity will allow those tracking the issue “to identify, not only gaps in both clinical and social supports for women and their families, but also disparities in care given to families of color.”

The news comes as women’s health sees a reduction in access to care with the closure of Women’s Med Center of Dayton, a clinic that provided abortion care, but also health care to low-income individuals and others in the area.

The clinic announced its Sept. 15 closure at the end of August, saying Ohio’s six-week abortion ban and an upcoming ban in Indiana caused them to cease patient services at the Dayton clinic and their Indiana facility.

“Whether a person needs an abortion because it endangers their health, or their birth control failed, no one should be forced to give birth because they cannot access the health care they need in their community,” said Pro-Choice Ohio’s executive director, Kellie Copeland, when the closures were announced.

The state report showed Ohio had a “severe maternal morbidity rate” of 71.1 per 10,000 deliveries over a four-year period. Black Ohioans saw a higher rate than any other race, the study concluded, at 112.2 per 10,000 deliveries. In comparison, white pregnancies saw 60.5 instances of severe maternal morbidity per 10,000 deliveries.

The data was similar to national averages.

Geography also seems to play a part in maternal health, as metropolitan counties in Ohio saw the highest rate of severe morbidity, and Appalachian counties saw the second highest rate.

Insurance coverage was also studied in the report, and found to be connected to severe morbidity, with Medicaid-covered births seeing rates of 85 per 10,000 deliveries, compared to 58.7 for private insurance.

“Birth outcomes for women should not be predicated on race or insurance status,” Britton and Lane wrote in analyzing the data.

With the research now available, public policy and health care experts can use the data to effect overall change, rather than just incremental measures, according to Britton and Lane.

“Ohio’s care providers and stakeholders across systems must utilize every tool we have to improve outcomes for moms – every mom – so they have every opportunity to be healthy.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Susan Tebben on Twitter.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.