In India more women die of maternity related causes than anywhere else in the world, according to Swapna Majumdar, a correspondent for Womensenews. In light of this grim situation, health advocates are pushing for legal remedies to bring the country closer to national and U.N. targets related to maternal deaths.
Melissa Upreti, a legal adviser to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, says, “Laws provide a strong basis to hold the governments accountable for maternal deaths.” An example of this consists of the lawsuits filed by the Human Rights Law Network, a New Delhi group. Several public interest lawsuits were filed by this group which sought better implementation of the government’s National Rural Health Mission, a seven year initiative with the goal of reducing maternal mortality, and improve services for women by 2012.
One lawsuit in particular exposed how the state of Madhya Pradesh failed to implement policies that were supposed to improve prenatal and postnatal care. This state has the country’s third highest rate of maternal mortality. Since the suit was filed in 2008, a blood bank was set up at Bhind Hospital in the state, and this consequently fulfilled one the law’s guarantees for services.
India’s official population policy has the aim of reducing the country’s maternal mortality to 100 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2010. Presently there are more than 300 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.
Correspondent Swapna Majumdar said that the latest National Family Health Survey concluded that in spite of improvements in the provision of maternal health care, at the current rate of change—which is no more than one percentage point a year—women’s reproductive health will continue to suffer. She goes on to say that in India women are supposed to have free maternity care. But the reality is very different, in that providers do ask women to pay for services. This has created a dire situation in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the inability to pay has been identified as the main cause of maternal death by one nongovernmental group that is working there.