According to a study published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, “after 2010, the reported maternal mortality rate for Texas doubled within a 2-year period to levels not seen in other U.S. states.”
In 2011, the state Legislature cut Texas’ family planning and women’s health program, which provide care and routine screenings for low-income women. Lawmakers slashed its budget by two-thirds—and kicked out women’s health providers that also provide abortions.
And while other studies found that move led to a spike in unplanned pregnancies and severely limited access to family planning, this latest research suggests these changes alone can’t definitively account for the spike in deaths among pregnant women.
“There were some changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics,” researchers note. “Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely.”
Researchers also note that they “did not identify any data processing or coding changes that would account for this rapid increase.”
In short, they are stumped.
“I think it’s very unusual,” said Dr. Marian MacDorman, a research professor at the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland and one of the authors of this study.
“I didn’t see this in other states.”
MacDorman says she and the other authors of this study were so intrigued they have already begun another study to try and figure out what happened.
“We are in the process of doing a follow-up study to try to analyze this study in more detail,” she says.