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Who To Thank for Public Health Miracles
Maternal and Infant Mortality Virtually Vanish

In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control released "Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Healthier Mothers and Babies." This report is a study in what public health efforts can achieve, but also serves as a great example of how statistics can be misused to further the pro-abortion agenda.

The good news is that in the 20th century, maternal and infant mortality has fallen over 90%. Aseptic techniques of delivery, antibiotics, vaccinations, sanitation, and other progress in medicine and public health deserve due credit for this. It's stunning to reflect on how risky pregnancy was for mothers 100 years ago -- or even 50 years ago. At the beginning of the century, for every 1000 live births, 6-9 mothers died of pregnancy-related complications. At the end of the century, the mortality rate had fallen so much that it is now measured in deaths per 100,000 live births. With a mortality rate of 7.7/100,000 in 1997, clearly childbirth was 100 times more riskier for our sisters at the turn of the last century.

Infant mortality, likewise, has improved at an astonishing rate. One in ten live-born infants died before the age of one at the beginning of the century. As the century draws to a close, only one in approximately 139 babies born in the United States dies before his or her first birthday. This is especially astonishing when you reflect that at our end of the century, tiny premature infants that would have been tabulated as miscarriages at one time are now being counted as live births -- which means that our improvement in infant mortality has progressed even though we're trying to save infants who would have been given up for dead a century ago. Lest you dismiss the impact of this new technology, consider this: shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Der Spiegel (an East German newspaper) reported that doctors were drowning low-birthweight infants and tabulating them as "abortions" rather than trying to save them, in order to improve the official infant mortality statistics. When alarmists point out the relatively high infant mortality rates of the United States compared to other developed countries, they're not factoring in our willingness to give even the tiniest and sickest babies a chance.

The Changing Face of Abortion
How abortion practice has changed, and how it's stayed the same.

Practices Before Legalization
What was abortion practice like before legalization?

Pre-Legalization Mortality
Were criminal abortions killing 5,000 to 10,000 American women every year?

Post Roe Practices
Exactly how much change did legalization make?

Safe-n-Legal in the 20th Century
A look at claims of legal abortion's safety.

Abortionists of the 20th Century
Legal, illegal, and quasi-legal.

Dividing the Century
Your gateway to a series of color-coded abortion timelines.

It's doubly stunning to reflect on how the simplest things -- like placing babies on their backs instead of their stomachs to sleep -- can make such a profound difference in saving lives. This one simple change in child care practices reduced deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by more than 50%.

The bad news is that our public health officials are so enamored of abortion that they attempt to attiribute better public health to legalization of their favored activity:

It's disengenuous, to say the least, to credit a few states loosening abortion restrictions starting in 1968 with the huge decline in septic illegal abortion deaths during the nearly twenty year period preceeding the change. Abortion guru Christopher Tietze attributed the decline in abortion deaths during that period to improved abortion techniques (especially the development of vacuum aspiration), improved emergency care (including improved antibiotic and blood transfusion therapy), and a contraceptive-driven drop in unwanted pregnancies. If someone with Tietze's enthusiasm for abortion hesitated to lay this public health achievement on abortion's doorstep, one must wonder what is going on inside the heads of those folks at the CDC.

Of all the public health accomplishments from 1950 to 1973 -- improved antibiotics, improved access to blood products, broader access to adequate prenatal care, and improvements in environmental health, to name a few -- our public health employees at the CDC single out limited legalization of abortion. Watch for pro choice groups claiming that abortion alone is responsible -- or at least primarily responsible -- for virtually the entire drop in maternal and neonatal mortality in the 20th century.

To whom is credit actually due, if it is not due to abortionists and abortion agitators? Let's look at some factors.

1. At the turn of the century, many maternal deaths were due to one sad factor: inadequate childhood nutrition. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D, especially for city children, caused ricketts. This meant that women who developed ricketts as children had small and/or malformed pelvises. This caused obstructed labor, a major contributor to high maternal mortality. This problem has been virtually eliminated, along with most nutritionally-related complications of pregnancy and childbirth. For this, we should thank:

2. The biggest contributors to the reduction in septic deaths were the unglamorous enterprises of sanitation and hygiene. Less trash in the streets meant fewer rats and other vermin, fewer risks of disease. Running water, sewage treatment, and the widespread use of gas and electric stoves and water heaters made the basic healthy hygiene we take for granted available. For this, we should thank:

3. Of course, medical advances played their vital roles. We owe a tremendious debt of gratitude to:

When you reflect on the tremendous advances in public health, especially maternal and neonatal health, of the 20th Century, give credit where credit is due. Remember that it was our fellow citizens, working daily in often thankless and dangerous jobs, who wrought these miracles as much as doctors and medical pioneers. It is thanks to the trash collector, the worker out repairing the electrical lines in bitter weather, the farmer rising before dawn to milk the cows, the stock clerk stacking oranges in the supermarket, that we can so take it for granted that we will survive pregnancy and childbirth, and that our children will outlive their parents. The abortionists and their cheerleaders should learn a little humility.

Related Links
Cesarean Section: A Brief History
Control of Infectious Diseases
Infant and Childhood Mortality: Chicago
Neonatology On The Web
Pure Food and Drugs
Safer and Healthier Foods
Some Obstetrical History

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