Thursday, November 08, 2007

George W. Bush: Baby Killer

In this week's New Scientist, Robert Adler has a stirring essay on the growing rate of infant mortality in the South. Unfortunately, it's behind a subscription wall, but please read it if you can.

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According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States has a higher rate of infant mortality than 41 of the 221 nations listed in their rankings. Which countries have lower mortality rates? Amongst the 41 are South Korea, Cuba, Slovenia, Malta, Macau and a variety of countries in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and Asia.

While nationwide infant mortality rates have gone down overall, we are still above 2001 levels and many states' rates have remained stagnant or risen. (An increase in infant deaths between 2001 and 2002 represented the first increase in infant mortality since 1958.) Of all the states, Mississippi has been hardest hit, although D.C. has a slightly higher rate.

Why are more children dying? There are a variety of possible reasons, including a greater preponderance of older mothers. However, these stats are predominantly a result of a decrease in access to healthcare for America's poor and working poor. Welfare reform on the national and state levels, a decrease in the availability of local health clinics, decreases in the number of healthcare providers who'll accept Medicaid, and a rise in the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured have all contributed.

Despite this growing healthcare crisis in our country, George W. Bush has vetoed Congress' attempt to renew and expand SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Attempts to override Bush's veto passed in the Senate but failed in the House. He is expected to veto a second and even third compromise versions of the bill, so Congressional Democrats are working hard to negotiate enough votes for a veto override. If Congress fails to pass a new temporary funding bill for the program and is unable to override Bush's veto, the program will run out of money and an additional 6 million children and an untold number of pregnant women will be without health insurance.

With the disappearance of SCHIP, infant mortality rates are guaranteed to rise in the coming years, especially in states like Mississippi. If the rate goes up by a single point, as many as 4,000 more infants will die every year (based on an average of 4 million births annually). That's 4,000 infants below the age of one. Add to this thousands of children below the age of five and thousands of pregnant women. IN AMERICA!

This is a national disgrace! We should all hang our heads in shame.

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