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Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was gathering a group a conservative legislators to stealthily assist in drafting and enacting a Ceauşescu-like law requiring all pregnant women to register their pregnancies with the state. At first glance, Provisional Measure 557 (PM 557) is not a bad law. It purports to address Brazil’s high maternal mortality ratio by ensuring better access to quality maternal health care, notably for pregnant women at a high risk for health complications. The problem is that it won’t reduce maternal mortality.
The biggest problem with maternal mortality in Brazil is not access to health care services, which PM 557 claims it will address, but rather the quality of public health services. The majority of preventable maternal deaths actually take place in public hospitals. PM 557 does not guarantee, for example, access to health exams, timely diagnosis, providers trained in obstetric emergency care, or immediate transfers to better facilities. It doesn’t even ensure a pregnant woman will find a vacant bed when she is ready to give birth.
Dilma’s cabinet includes an unofficial church representative who was responsible for brokering an agreement between the Vatican and Brazil during President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration. For years Catholic and evangelical parliamentarians have been trying unsuccessfully to establish a registry for pregnant women, with Dilma’s support they’ve finally succeeded.
For more visit Slate.