If Texas were a country, it would have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world and would be on a par with Mexico or Turkey. “We’re trying to figure out how to get our rate down to a First World country,” says Tony Dunn, chair of the Texas chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The question is not just why Texas has this problem, but also why it’s been getting so much worse and why it’s more severe there than in other states. There are no clear answers, but there are clues.
The state task force published its first significant findings on maternal mortality last July. Cardiac events and hypertension rank as the first and third causes of death, aligning more or less with national trends. But in Texas, to the bewilderment of everyone, drug overdoses ranked second.
The entire country has been grappling with an opioid epidemic that is showing no sign of slowing down. Texas is not ground zero — the Rust Belt and parts of New England claim that title — but it ranks near the top.