Black, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women continued to have the highest fetal mortality rates in 2020, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Fetal mortality, the intrauterine loss of the fetus before delivery, is an ongoing crisis in the US but is often overlooked for infant mortality, typically due to less knowledge of how it happens, what causes it, or ways to prevent it, the authors of the report said. Fetal death statistics exclude induced pregnancy terminations, according to the report.
The fetal mortality rate among non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander women was 10.59 per 1,000 live births and fetal deaths in 2020, an increase from 10.03 in 2019. The rate for Black women was 10.34, which fell from 10.41 in 2019. Asian women saw the lowest fetal mortality rate at 3.93, followed by White women with 4.73.
The rate increased by 13.42 for women under 15, and by 12.2 for women aged 45 and over.
Public health officials have feared the recent US Supreme Court decision ending a federal right to abortion would exacerbate disparities in OB-GYN care, particularly for those living in rural communities.
Black and Indigenous women already saw a decline in OB-GYN care due to rural hospital and OB-GYN clinics closing rapidly during the pandemic, said Jen Villavicencio, lead for equity transformation at American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and an obstetrician-gynecologist with a specialty in complex family planning.
“The United States continues to face an ongoing maternal health crisis that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “These ongoing crises will now be yet again worsened and patients will be negatively impacted as a result of the SCOTUS decision, with the greatest harm falling on communities of color.”