Commentary: Babies, Mothers And A Life-Or-Death Choice

first_imgBy John INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a question of what we value.And what we don’t.I’m talking over the air with Dr. Camueal Wright of CareSource, Donetta Gee-Weiler with Community Health and journalist Giles Bruce about Indiana’s rates of infant and maternal mortality – the numbers of babies and mothers who die in our state.John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.comThose numbers are abysmal.And tragic.Indiana ranks 45th out of 50 when it comes to infant mortality. We are the worst state in the Midwest when it comes to protecting the lives of children. Our numbers are 50 percent higher than the national average. They have hovered there for quite some time.We don’t do any better by the women who bear these children. Indiana ranks 46th out of 50 in the maternal mortality lists. Again, we Hoosiers reside at the bottom of the Midwest rankings. And, again, we have been there for some time.I ask Wright, Gee-Weiler, and Bruce why Indiana does such a poor job of caring for pregnant women and infants.Many of the answers are complicated.Those answers deal with questions of accessibility to food, to transportation, to competent health care, and to other fundamental support systems. Pregnant women who don’t receive adequate medical counsel and help – particularly early on – face much greater risks of tragedy for themselves and their children.In too many cases, though, that care isn’t available, isn’t affordable or getting to it is difficult, if not impossible, for mothers-to-be.Bruce, Gee-Weiler, and Wright make the point that, while Indiana’s numbers are particularly bad, the rest of the country also isn’t meeting this challenge all that well.Bruce, a health-care reporter, notes that the United States has some of the worst public-health statistics in the industrialized world, even though we Americans spend more on health care than any other nation does. He says, for example, we’re seeing life expectancies decline in America while people are living longer in most other parts of the world.Some of that has to do with the way we deliver health care in this country.So long as we view providing medical care as an opportunity for private interests – particularly insurance companies – to reap often huge profits, we will have a dynamic that encourages the health-care industry to jack up prices and write off potential losses.Such as women and small children.But some of this is not that complicated.One listener calls in to argue that, in effect, we Hoosiers are getting what we pay for. He says Indiana ranks near the bottom – 49th out of 50 – when it comes to public health spending. Our rate of investment is about two-thirds that of the national average.The states that spend more on public health have fewer women and children dying.It’s that simple.To his credit, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has made infant and maternal mortality one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session of the General Assembly. He wants to require better and more thorough counseling and advocacy for pregnant Hoosier women.Many of his ideas and plans make sense and likely would make a difference.But the real test is more basic.If a woman can’t get to or can’t afford a doctor or even decent food, then she still will be at risk. The only way we Hoosiers solve that problem is by investing more money in public health – in making sure that the most vulnerable among us aren’t dying because we don’t care enough to save them.The conservative British politician Nigel Lawson once said, “To govern is to choose.”That is what confronts us now – a choice.We can choose to invest resources in saving women’s and children’s lives.Or we can continue to let them die.It’s a question of what we value.And what we don’t.FOOTNOTE:  John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img