Laura Waterman Wittstock

Laura Waterman Wittstock is president and CEO of Wittstock & Associates. The firm provides consultation in new projects, creative, development, assessment/evaluation, and governance. Read more about Laura Waterman Wittstock

Never Shout "Baby Killer" In a Crowded Room

Posted by: Laura Waterman Wittstock Updated: March 22, 2010 - 3:39 PM

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan was speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last night when someone was heard to shout "baby killer." Only after the speaker of the house (pro tem) gaveled the meeting back to order was Rep. Stupak allowed to continue. He was explaining why he thought the pro-life aspects of the soon to be passed Health Bill would be protected when he was interrupted. Stupak is known to be "pro life."

It took until this afternoon for the culprit to come forward. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas (shown, right) said, "I have apologized to Mr. Stupak and also apologize to my colleagues for the manner in which I expressed my disappointment about the bill. The House Chamber is a place of decorum and respect. The timing and tone of my comment last night was inappropriate."

In Minnesota 46.0 percent identified themselves as "pro life" in 2009, a steady increase from 41.1 percent in 2005 (source Survey USA). This compares to the national "pro life" preference of 51%. This is the first time Americans have chosen this preference in the majority since the Gallup Poll began measuring the question in 1995.

So what are the numbers of abortions alone telling us? MN counted 12,948 medical abortions in 2008 (Medical News Today). By comparison, the deaths of poor MN infants whose parents  lack insurance is  7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. (The MN Department of Health is source of this information).

The report also said, "Though not always statistically significant, women of color and American Indian women had lower rates of infant death when covered by Medicaid than those in the non-Medicaid population. It was also true that teen mothers covered by Medicaid had lower infant death rates than teens in the non-Medicaid population."

So where does "pro life" figure in the debate of more insurance which will lower infant death rates compared to what we have now? Infant death rates are one thing, the uncounted numbers are non-medical fetus loss due to poor nutrition, uncared for disease, and various kinds of drug and chemical use. Preventive care is the best care for healthy fetuses and their mothers. But that cost depends on a society that cares enough for fetuses and infants to see that they are properly cared for.

Few Minnesotans have likely heard of the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health. It has been fighting to lower the numbers of fetal and infant deaths for years. The MN Commissioner of Health is Dr. Sanne Magnan. She said, .... we know that significant disparities remain in multiple areas,{such as infant mortality} and we must continue our efforts. During the 2009 legislative session, we sustained our investment in health reform, including the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which will address tobacco and obesity, the leading preventable causes of illness and death. We also sustained the investment in implementing health care homes. Both of these initiatives are being held accountable in legislation to decrease health disparities."

The Office, working together with communities all across Minnesota, has managed to bring down Infant mortality without shouting in the streets, or in the State legislature. Increased health insurance will bring the boost needed to lower the numbers even more.

"Baby killer!" isn't shouted at those who would refuse insurance for the poor. It is only shouted when the question is medical abortion. It's a cruel twist on the realities of poor people who are bringing new life into the world.

 (Disclosure: the author is on the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health - Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative advisory board). 

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