Online Program

Women's rights are Human rights: A case study of pregnancy-associated deaths in Virginia

Monday, November 2, 2015

Jennifer Bronson, PhD, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice, Washington DC, DC

Around the world over, the chances of dying from pregnancy-related causes are disproportionately higher for poor women and racial/ethnic minorities, suggesting a multi-dimensional system of structural inequality that places some women at higher risks for adverse outcomes. This is a case-study of pregnancy-associated deaths (PAD) that occurred in Virginia. Data was obtained from Virginia’s Maternal Mortality Review Team and the sample contained 309 women who died from a violent or natural PAD. Violent deaths were defined as those in which the manner of death was homicide, suicide, or an accidental overdose. These were compared to the 12 natural causes of deaths, such as embolism or cardiac disorder. Information about the women’s lives were also examined, such as whether the pregnancy was wanted, if domestic violence occurred, life stressors, and her economic status. Result showed that 13% of women in the sample were murdered, which was larger than any single natural cause of death. Nearly 60% of the homicide victims were Black and homicide was the leading manner of death for this group. Results showed that not only was the decedents’ right to life violated, but that gender-based violence was a contributing factor in 89% of the homicides, many decedents experienced denials of economic rights, and that the tenants of reproductive justice were violated for almost all the women in the sample. A theoretical model of human rights is presented and implications for improving women’s health through universal human rights are discussed.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Assess how a human rights framework can be applied to pregnancy-associated deaths. Differentiate between human rights and civil rights. Identify the sectors that comprise a holistic human rights model.

Keyword(s): Human Rights, Maternal and Child Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked in the field of human rights for several years, as well as researched maternal health for over 5 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.