Rachel Maddow on Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality

This is a story about what happens when extreme right politics get in the way of saving lives, specifically for birthing parents and their babies. Rachel Maddow tackles the racial disparities that cause the infant mortality rate in Mississippi to be worse than that of Sri Lanka and Botswana. The national infant mortality rate is atrocious at 6.8 deaths per 1000 live births. And the rate in Mississippi is a heart-stopping 10.6 per 1000 live births. (for 2005-2007 as recorded by the CDC). Maddow interviews Dr. Carl Reddix, an OB/GYN that was just ousted from the Mississippi board of health for apparently being too pro-abortion for the new right-wing players in the government (who are apparently to the right even of Haley Barbour, the right wing anti-abortion former governor of Mississippi who appointed Dr. Reddix to the board originally).

The problem? Dr. Reddix agreed to back up a clinic that provides abortions. As in, if something goes wrong during a procedure and they have to transport to a better equipped hospital, Dr. Reddix agreed to provide care for the patient. I would have thought that even people who are staunchly pro-life would be for a very well-qualified doctor providing life-saving care to patients experiencing a complication from an abortion. We might disagree about whether abortion is ok, moral, or should be legal. Surely we don’t disagree about whether we should provide care to an adult in medical need, regardless of their choices.

 

Infant Mortality and Racial Disparities in Milwaukee

Milwaukee has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation and the numbers are particularly staggering for black women in the city.

Income and education fail to account for the racial disparity in Milwaukee’s infant mortality rates.

Blacks across the socioeconomic spectrum have higher infant mortality rates than whites.

The infant mortality rate for a child born to a black woman in the highest tier is about the same as the rate for a child born to a white woman in the lowest tier.

The infant mortality rate for babies born to a black woman in the middle tier is three times the rate for babies born to white women in the same tier.

It is not clear why.

“I’ve been working on this for 20 years,” Mason said, “and just when you think you’ve figured it out – whoosh! – it’s gone.”

A growing field of research suggests that the chronic stress of living in poverty or with barriers associated with low educational attainment increases the risk of the leading cause of infant mortality: preterm birth and low birth weight.

Research also shows that the experience of racial or ethnic discrimination deepens stress and further increases the risk of preterm or low birth weight.

A novel study published in 2006 vividly illustrates this theory.

Diane S. Lauderdale, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Chicago, wanted to know whether poor birth outcomes increased for women of Arab-origin after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Lauderdale looked at all California birth certificates for 2001, 2002 and 2003. She identified more than 15,000 mothers with Arabic last names.

Prior to 9-11, she discovered, women with Arabic last names had the same low birth weight rate as non-Hispanic white women.

But in the six months after 9-11, the chances of having a low birth weight child increased 34%.

The risk of bearing low birth weight babies, she found, did not increase for any other ethnic group.

Read the whole thing here: For Milwaukee’s children, an early grave.