OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An analysis of how women are faring across the nation ranks Oklahoma 48th among the 50 states based on performance in categories such as economics, leadership and health.
The report released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research and educational institute, ranked each state on 36 separate factors, including the number of women living in poverty, women reaching leadership positions in the public and private sector, and their access to health insurance and health care.
The report says Oklahoma women suffer from the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. That means women in Oklahoma are more likely to die from pregnancy-related medical complications than women in 47 other states.
The report, entitled The State of Women in America, also says Oklahoma is among the 10 worst states in the nation in terms of infant mortality. Across the nation, the state has the second-lowest ratio of obstetrician gynecologists to the female population, with only one for every 18,713 women.
Maryland was ranked first overall in the nationwide analysis. Utah was 49th and Louisiana 50th.
A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma's first female governor and one of only five female governors in the U.S., said the report indicates that significant improvements are needed in women's health. But the state has made strides in becoming a place where women can thrive in leadership positions in both the public and private sector, Communications Director Alex Weintz said.
In business, women make up almost 50 percent of Oklahoma's workforce and there are more than 84,000 women-owned businesses in the state, Weintz said in a statement.
"In the public sector, Gov. Fallin herself stands as a testament to the idea that the glass ceiling has been broken in Oklahoma politics," Weintz said.
He said Fallin also has a female chief of staff and two female Cabinet members and that 20 women serve in the Oklahoma House and Senate. There are 13 spots on Fallin's Cabinet and 149 elected lawmakers in the state Legislature.
Jill Nobles-Botkin, administrative program manager for perinatal and reproductive health for the state Department of Health, said the report highlights health issues that the agency has targeted, including reproductive health and access to health care.
Last month, the Department of Health reported that Oklahoma's infant mortality rate had declined but remained above the national rate. The infant mortality rate declined from 8.6 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 7.9 per 1,000 live births in 2012. The national rate of 6.15 per 1,000 live births was recorded in 2010.
The agency also reported that the state's rate of smoking had dropped to a historic low, but Nobles-Botkin said traditionally high smoking rates have been a factor in reproductive health.
She said one third of women in the state who became pregnant reported smoking prior to their pregnancy and 18 percent said they smoked through the last three months of pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight, premature birth and high rates of respiratory problems following birth, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 23.3 percent of Oklahoma residents smoked in 2012, down from 26.1 percent in 2011. Oklahoma ranks 39th in the nation for its rate of adult smoking, down from 47th last year.