Good news on Maryland infant mortality still leaves questions

The State of Maryland released a new report indicating that infant mortality is on the decline. That’s good news, isn’t it?

According to reports in the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post, Governor Martin J. O’Malley and State Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein released some new, encouraging numbers that note that while there are still disparities, especially between the city and other areas, and between African-American communities and other communities, the overall rate of infant death is coming down, which is a good sign for public health.
According to the state’s “Babies Born Healthy” website, “Infant mortality is one of the most critical indicators of the overall health of a population. An infant death or pregnancy loss is a signal that there may be problems within a community. Many factors such as family history, personal health history, diet, environment, lifestyle, and poor access to quality health and social services are known to contribute to infant mortality.”
One of the governor’s priorities, as noted on the Maryland government website in more than one place, is to continue to bring down the infant mortality rate.  Among the methods for that are three points:
·            Before Pregnancy – Expanded Access to Women’s Comprehensive Health and Wellness Services;
·            During Pregnancy – Earlier Entry into Prenatal Care;
·            After Pregnancy – More Comprehensive Follow-Up Care.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of healthy babies. Some of the most important work that the Catholic Church and people in the pro-life community do is to support the health of mothers and babies during pregnancy and after birth.
My parents spent many years volunteering for a program in the Chicago area that did just that. The Courage Program paired young women in unexpected pregancies with mentors who were available for advice, support and love throughout their pregnancy and beyond. If the baby was to be given up for adoption, Courage connected the mother with agencies to assist with that. If she planned to keep the child, the program presented the mother with a huge layette of clothing, bottles, diapers and all sorts of other baby needs. Take a large plastic bag, of the size normally used in your yard for leaves and grass, clippings, and fill one of those with everything a new mom needs. My parents had shelves in the spare bedroom stacked to the rafters with boxes labeled: “bottles,” “onesies,” “diapers” (newborn and bigger sizes), clothes in various sizes from “preemie” and “newborn” to “18 months.” The garage was full, too, of clothes, cribs and blankets, all donated and all waited to be cleaned and sorted. It wore out my parents’ washing machine. While Mom talked to “her girls,” as she referred to the mothers in the program assigned to her, Dad often would be out on antoher run picking up more goodies from another parish “Courage baby shower.”
The program also offered parenting classes , as well as sacramental prep classes for baptism.
So I know firsthand how well the pro-life movement supports mothers before and after the birth. This is the nuts-and-bolts, boots-on-the-ground pro-life work that is seldom seen, but is so prevalent throughout the country.
And that’s why I don’t understand why a state program that purports to be concerned about “infant death or pregnancy loss” does not give a damn about abortion. Isn’t that a form of pregnancy loss? If these are indicators of the public health of a community, then certainly abortion has to be a part of the equation.
But Maryland is one of the few states in the country that doesn’t even bother to track the number of abortions. If tracking the ups and downs of infant mortality matters to the government, why doesn’t the number of child deaths from abortion matter?
I just find that a little curious. Or disingenuous. Either way, it’s sad.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.