Care harmed by maternity unit closings

Maternity units in Philadelphia are closing. A future mother expects better.

As I prepare to complete my first semester of college, I’m about 23 weeks pregnant with a little girl. I received the news nine days before moving in at Temple. It was Aug. 18, when the results of my blood pregnancy test came back positive, regardless of the fact that a previous urine test was negative.

There are always a few girls getting knocked up here and there, but it never happens to most college students. It’s usually just “moms and teachers,” as Paulie Bleeker naively said in Juno, a movie about teen pregnancy.

But it’s not.

I’m just your average 18-year-old freshman, and it happened to me.

Within the next three months or so – depending on when this little girl plans on making her worldwide debut – I have to plan both my life and the life of my unborn child. I’m stressed and certainly a bit scared, and knowing there’s a maternity crisis going on doesn’t help much.

Since 1997, 17 maternity units in the Philadelphia metropolitan region have closed. Pregnant women have to travel farther to receive adequate treatment, and the centers that still offer obstetrics are becoming overcrowded. According to Childbirth at a Crossroads, a study done by the Maternity Care Coalition, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this problem began.

The study reported the seriousness of the crisis.

Part of it read, “Perhaps it was when we began to hear of women laboring in hospital hallways, or when we learned of a hospital overwhelmed with deliveries lacking isolettes for newborns, while just a few miles away a recently closed hospital, complete with obstetrical unit and isolettes, sat empty and idle.”

This is unsettling.

It’s a real problem, and it’s not properly being addressed.

This isn’t just a problem in the Philadelphia area. It’s a problem everywhere, and Pennsylvania as a whole seems to have been hit awfully hard.

According to, Passavant Hospital, which is located in Pittsburgh, accounted for nearly 1,800 births per year. Recently, the hospital closed its obstetrics unit, and shortly after, two more hospitals in the region followed.

The site also references a Pew Charitable Trust report, which found “about two-thirds of obstetrics residents plan to leave Pennsylvania upon graduation, while the number of practicing OB/GYNs in Pennsylvania has already dropped by one-third in just the past decade.”

Some women, especially young women, are uninsured. Luckily, I’m still covered under my mother’s insurance, but only if I’m a full-time student. Next semester, I will be taking online classes while living at home in order to meet these standards.

I’m one of the lucky ones, and I certainly realize that. But many women are not as fortunate, and without insurance, the average birthing medical expenses average about $24,000.

That’s a lot of money to labor in a hallway.

Jen Merrill can be reached at

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