This is part two in a two-part series on infant deaths. For part one, click HERE.
America’s infant mortality rate increased by 3% between 2021 and 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a report released Wednesday, marking the first year-to-year increase in babies dying before their first birthday in 20 years.
The report doesn’t say what caused infant mortality to rise in the last two years — though the Daily Citizen found several potential connections to declining maternal health and expanding maternity care deserts — but some mainstream news outlets were quick to point the finger at pro-life policies.
“Texas banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in 2021, which may have played a role in the larger number of infant deaths the following year by preventing terminations of acutely ill fetuses,” wrote the New York Times, hypothesizing more babies died outside the womb in 2022 because fewer babies with birth defects and other disabilities were aborted.
As believers, we know abortions unfailingly raise infant death rates because they end the lives of pre-born children. But there’s nothing in the CDC’s report to suggest pro-life laws cause infant mortality rates to rise, either.
Of the top ten causes of infant deaths, only instances of contracting bacterial sepsis and maternal complications statistically increased, by 14% and 9%, respectively, in the last two years.
Death rates caused by acute illnesses formed in the womb, like congenital malformations; short gestation and low birthrate; complications of placenta, cord and membranes; circulatory diseases; and neonatal hemorrhages did not change from year to year, disproving the Times’ theory that infant deaths would have gone down if ill babies were aborted in the womb instead of being born.
Additionally, there’s no clear correlation between state increases in infant mortality — which occurred in Georgia (13%), Missouri (16%), Iowa (30%) and Texas (8%) between 2021 and 2022 — and the implementation of pro-life laws.
The Times suggests Texas’ heartbeat law could have caused last year’s 8% increase in infant mortality, but the policy had no effect on infant deaths from 2020 — before it was implemented — to its enforcement in 2021.
If pro-life policies were to blame for higher infant mortality, we should have seen Texas’ rate go up between 2020 and 2021, not only between 2021 and 2022.
Additionally, while Georgia and Missouri both passed total bans on abortions in July 2022, Iowa, whose infant death rate increased the most, allows abortions up to 26-weeks gestation. Though it recently passed a heartbeat law, it is not being enforced pending litigation.
Unfortunately, the Time’s insinuation that pro-life laws cause more infant deaths — complete with the disclaiming phrase, “may have played a role,” so no one can claim they actually believe it — confirmed to many readers that pro-life laws are harmful. Commenters castigated pro-lifers for abandoning babies to death, with one mocking, “By all means protect the fetus, but once the baby is born, you’re on your own.”
Content with the Times’ vague explanation, many will likely never learn that broader, more nuanced trends in health and falling birth rates are a more likely explanation for the CDC’s data.
If there’s never been a good enough example to show why believers need God’s wisdom and discernment when consuming news — here it is. In a fast-paced news environment, reporters aren’t always looking for the deeper, more complete picture.
Be curious, stay prayerful, and read to the end!
Image from Shutterstock.