Despite longstanding international commitments to reducing maternal mortality, so far progress has been disappointing. This briefing illustrates how human rights – and the right to the highest attainable standard of health (“right to health”) in particular – can contribute new impetus, frameworks and strategies for reducing maternal mortality.
In recent years, there has been increased recognition that reducing maternal mortality is not just an issue of development, but also an issue of human rights. Preventable maternal mortality occurs where there is a
failure to give effect to the rights of women to health, equality and non-discrimination. Preventable maternal
mortality also often represents a violation of a woman’s right to life.
Maternal health has a particularly close relationship with the right to the highest attainable standard of health. This fundamental human right is recognised in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as other international human rights treaties. The right to health includes entitlements to goods and services, including sexual and reproductive health care and information. It requires action to break down political, economic, social and cultural barriers that women face in accessing the interventions that can prevent maternal mortality.