This is an IJR Red reported opinion response to IJR’s original investigative piece, “A Tale of Two Countries: Norway’s Healthcare System Sets the International Gold Standard, While the U.S. Lags Far Behind.”
Norway outranks the United States in several areas relating to healthcare, but as IJR reported, the disparity is especially prevalent when it comes to maternal healthcare.
The State of the World’s Mothers report by Save the Children ranked the United State 33 spots below Norway as far as maternal care is concerned.
It is important to note that the report by Save the Children uses atypical metrics for tracking maternal health, including one confusing metric titled “political status.” The metric provides a score based on the percentage of woman that make up the national government. While this may seem like an important figure, the United States (19.5 percent) ranked below Saudi Arabia (19.9 percent) for female political status.
Women received the right to drive just one year ago in Saudi Arabia, so it is a bit of a stretch to say women have more political status there.
Nevertheless, their data on the United States and Norway does show lower rates of infant and mother mortality in the Nordic country. In addition to better survival rates, Norwegian parents have some of the longest paid maternity and paternity leaves on the planet.
Although the United States appears to be behind Norway in maternal care, it is important to fully understand the survival disparities and regulations at play.
Disparities in infant and mother mortality
As the report states, American mothers had a 1 in 1,800 chance of dying while giving birth while Norwegian mothers had a 1 in 14,900 chance of dying while in labor.
For children under 5-years-old, the mortality rate in the United States is 6.9 per every 1,000 live births. In Norway, the mortality rate is just 2.8 per every 1,000 live births.
When just looking at the numbers, it would appear as though the United States has inferior medical treatment for these mothers, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
In the United States, many pro-life mothers carry risky pregnancies to term because they do not believe in aborting the child. This not only puts the mother’s life at risk, but it is also likely that the child will have several health complications post-birth.
While both the mother and the doctors understand the risk, many are willing to take it in hopes that the child will survive.
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"If you don't believe in miracles, God sent us Matthew to remind us they're real."
Posted by IJR Red on Friday, August 31, 2018
Infant and mother mortality are important data points to consider, but they do not tell the full story.
In Iceland, for example, the mortality rate for children under 5-years-old is 2.1 per every 1,000 live births — an exceptionally low rate. What that number doesn’t include is the fact that Iceland bragged about eradicating Down Syndrome children through abortion.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 15, 2017
While there may be more children born with their full health, it buries the fact that not all children are given the chance to be born in the first place.
Overregulation of at-home care
Having a baby in the United States is not a cheap process. As IJR reported, mothers in Norway receive luxurious services in comparison to their American counterparts when they have a child. While there is a conversation to be had about the tax burden that imposes on the Norwegian people, it obviously makes it much less financially stressful for the new families.
In Norway, many mothers use midwives for a more natural birthing process. If American mothers choose to avoid the exorbitant hospital fees to opt for using midwives or other at-home birth assistance, they often hit many government-imposed roadblocks.
As Vice explains, there are several hurdles at-home birth providers must get over before they can help any families.
Many states including Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas require women to complete a full exam with a licensed doctor before midwives are allowed to work with the mother-to-be.
A lot of these regulations were put in place to protect the mother, but some believe the regulations are excessive and would prefer to be in full control of their child’s birth rather than being forced to go to expensive medical facilities.
Paid family leave
As IJR reported, Norway provides nearly a year of fully-paid maternity leave, as well as paid paternity leave.
It is important to note that many American companies already provide paid family leave. Around 58 percent of organizations provide paid maternity leave for parents with the average length being 14.5 weeks.
For many, these benefits are deciding points for whether someone will work for a company. If companies want to receive the most talented workforce, they have to provide these benefits.
Although the year of paid leave may sound nice, it can have negative consequences.
According to the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), not only does paid family leave put a burden on companies, but it also makes them less willing to hire women.
— IWF (@IWF) September 22, 2016
There are alternatives to forcing companies to provide extended family leave. Personal care accounts are one such solution.
Personal care accounts are tax-free savings accounts that allow families to save for time away from work due to illnesses, pregnancies, and caring for their family. They allow people to automatically contribute money to their savings accounts.
In some cases, employers contribute funds to these accounts in the same way they contribute to retirement savings such as 401k accounts.
Legislators could encourage more companies to provide personal care accounts by providing tax incentives to businesses that offer this option for their employees.
Another option that legislators could pass is an exemption that allows mothers to tap into their Social Security for 12 weeks following the birth of their child.
As IWF explained, this plan would not cause any new taxes or disincentives to hire women. Tapping into Social Security is tax-neutral, but it would allow the new mothers a steady income in the first few weeks after having the child.
The United States and Norway are two very different countries, and they have different values. While there will always be ways to improve pregnancies for American mothers, it is important to keep in mind that it isn’t wrong for Americans to find solutions that respect our values of life and economic liberty.