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The culture war between midwives and doctors, explained

The US falls behind other affluent countries in midwife use. A deeper look at history may explain why.

Ranjani Chakraborty is a lead video producer on the Vox video team and the creator behind Vox’s history series, Missing Chapter.

Since ProPublica launched Lost Mothers, the news site has covered many facets of the US maternal mortality crisis. Despite spending more per capita on health care than any other country, the US has the highest rate of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth in the industrialized world.

But what makes maternal health care in other affluent countries look so different from the US? Among many other things: midwives. Midwives in the US participate in less than 10 percent of births. In Sweden, Denmark, and France, they lead around three-quarters of deliveries. In Great Britain, they deliver half of all babies, including all three of Kate Middleton’s. So if the midwifery model works for royal babies, why not our own?

Check out the video above to find out how midwives have been at the center of a culture war that’s deeply rooted in race and class in America. Today we see vestiges of that history in states with restrictive midwifery laws and barriers to entry for midwives.

This story makes up the eighth installment in Vox’s collaboration with ProPublica. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. Subscribe and stay tuned for more from our partnership with ProPublica.