A February 22, 2022 USA Today article “Homicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy. These women are more likely to be killed.”, cited a 2021 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology that found that homicide exceeded all top cause of maternal death “by more than twofold” in 2018 and 2019.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2003 that the United States required death certificates to include information on whether the person who died was pregnant at the time or had recently given birth. Then the CDC paused on releasing reports on U.S maternal mortality rates “over concerns that the data collect was incomplete and potentially incorrect” until 2017 when all 50 states included some type of checkbox on death certificates allowing officials to track maternal mortality.
Pregnancy-associated homicide covers the perinatal period (pregnancy and up to 1 year postpartum) and when the perpetrator of the homicide is identified, the assailant is most often an intimate partner. Most of the victims were found to be black or younger than 25.
The USA Today article states that:
“Experts say the alarming statistics reflect a grave nationwide public health concern, with the inequity adding urgency to widen the lens on maternal mortality causes, track them better and raise domestic violence awareness.”
Dr. Andrea Jackson, an obstetrician and gynecologist and professor at the University said the findings felt like a call to action for all of us in obstetrics” and that the “whole system needs to be built with the most vulnerable at the center”.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
While clinicians are encouraged to be “more proactive in screening for signs of domestic violence during prenatal appointments”, the rest of us should be aware that many women are afraid to tell others about domestic abuse-whether or not they are pregnant.
Both personally and professionally, I have seen women hide their domestic abuse problems from others with a happy face for years before the abuse was evident.
When we encounter women considering abortion, we need to be aware that some women may be in abusive situations and need help beyond food insecurity, lack of child care, transportation barriers to health care, etc.
Live Action, a pro-life group, published a March 2022 article “Love Them Both: How to help a pregnant mother in a crisis situation” that has helpful information on numerous resources available to help pregnant women facing a crisis situation like domestic violence, homelessness, drug addiction and more.
As Live Action says:
“Pro-lifers can help any woman considering abortion by helping her out of the crisis with real solutions.”
And we all need to know about the resources available to help women-pregnant or not-with these serious problems.