Hundreds of women’s rights activists, health workers and HIV victims demonstrated outside the Constitutional Court May 27 in support of a petition asking the court to declare that Ugandan mothers dying in childbirth represent “a violation of the right to life as guaranteed under Article 22 of the Constitution.”

The petitioners, family members of women lost to preventable complications of pregnancy and delivery, are seeking compensation. In its report, the Daily Monitor cites health care underfunding affecting emergency and preventative obstetric care. For sub-Saharan Africa, where 640 women per 100,000 live births died last year, Uganda’s maternal death rate is relatively low at 435 deaths; rates for South Sudan and Niger are 2,037 and 1,800 respectively.

Students at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, N.Y., had paved the way for the Kampala demonstrators. Fifty of them, rallying with signs and “prosthetic bellies” on May 23, denounced a U.S. maternal death rate – 17 per 100,000 live births – at statistic placing their own country at 50th place in world rankings for safe pregnancies and deliveries.

“In the U.S.,” says Amnesty International, “African-American women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women.”


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont and now lives in rural Maine. He practiced and taught pediatrics for 35 years and long ago joined the Cuba solidarity movement, working with Let Cuba Live of Maine, Pastors for Peace, and the Venceremos Brigade. He writes on Latin America and health issues for the People's World.