Despite lagging in movement towards securing sexual and reproductive health care, targeting syphilis, and monitoring mothers and their babies in the postpartum period, Uruguay has done much to reduce the maternal mortality rate, a major aspect of the fifth Millennium Development Goal. As alerted to by the IPS newswire the country has made significant progress towards lowering the maternal mortality rate, which is now the lowest rate throughout Latin America. Despite these great successes, it remains critical to target lower income communities and rural women as most of the deaths that continue to occur are understood to be avoidable. Additionally, maternal mortality and morbidity relates directly to other issues of women’s health care access, and though the rate is on target, it is important to not only focus on preventing deaths. Uruguay now has secured antenatal care for roughly 90 percent of pregnant women which has helped to lower the death rate from an average of 2.3 per 10,000 live births in the 1990′s, to 1.5 deaths per 10,000 in 2008.
Also significant to the reduction in the death rate is that while abortion remains illegal in Uruguay medical responses to such have shifted. As reported, “In 2001 it was shown that abortions carried out in unsafe conditions were responsible for 28 percent of maternal mortality.” Without changing law to allow for safe abortions, an initiative to reduce the risk of unsafe abortions with counseling and pre and post abortion examinations has enabled many women to guarantee health care access in important, albeit limited, ways. As IPS notes, “According to official statistics, there have been no deaths due to abortion complications in the country in the last two years.”