“According to the World Heath Organization, since 1995, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has increased 160%.”

“In fact, the United States’ maternal mortality rate is higher than any other country in the world.”

As mind-blowing as those statistics are, I’ll admit, they didn’t immediately register.  Then I saw the footage of the installation — one hospital gown to represent all the women who died in childbirth in the year 2013 — women folding those gowns like flags for fallen soldiers.

Chicago-based artist Michelle Hartney was highlighted on CNN’s Great Big Story, as part of their “Instigators” series recently, presented in conjunction with Every Mother Counts—a non-profit dedicated to maternal health, founded by model Christy Turlington Burns.  The new series profiles people fighting for change in women’s health, spotlighting innovators in the field.

Step in Hartney. Labeled a true “Instigator”,  Hartley is featured using her probing art to shine a light on the increasing dangers of childbirth in the United States.

Mother’s Righta conceptual installation and performance piece—and Birth Words are both part of Hartney’s ongoing Obstetrics in America series, which includes Our Past, Birth Words, Mother’s Right, and Mom$. These films address the United States’ high rates of maternal mortality, postpartum PTSD, and obstetric abuse.

If you are in Chicago…Hartney will be participating in a week-long residency at Defibrillator Gallery from February 15 through 20, during which a performance of Mother’s Right—featuring the 1,200 hospital gowns from the original piece—will be held Saturday, February 20 at 7pm, free and open to the public.

In 2016, Hartney will be presenting additional iterations of the piece in collaboration with various organizations in locations internationally.