The shame of our nation

Aug 7, 2017 by

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U.S. President Donald Trump should feel indebted to religious voters, especially to evangelicals, who esteem themselves as “values voters.” A significant majority of them voted for him, believing they would have an advocate, if not a friend, in the White House. Now we are at a juncture where we can assess whether President Trump is meeting the expectations of a loyal constituency.

How is Trump doing on his promises to conservative religious voters? Of course, many conservatives, both religious and political, were pleased that Neil Gorsuch was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Now, we have to see whether Gorsuch’s moral convictions will transform the conservative pro-birth agenda into one that will become more pro-life; the central issue is whether legislation to prevent abortions will lead to legislation that will provide more support for children during the first years of their lives.

One indicator of a great nation is its infant morality rate, the percentage of infants who die during their first year of life; it is called IMR-1. This indicator is important, not only because it gives an accurate measure how many infants die before their first birthdays, but it also serves as an approximate indicator of how many children are impaired in their development during the first years of their lives.

Countries that effectively provide healthcare for infants have low rates of IMR-1, usually between 2.0 and 3.0, indicating that, for every thousand infants born, between two and three die during the first years of their lives. Countries with low rates of IMR include Japan, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Singapore and Iceland; they rank in the top 10 countries with low rates of IMR-1. According to the latest statistics from the CIA, the IMR-1 for the U.S. is 5.8; it ranks 57th in the world. If the U.S. wants to make a commitment to supporting pro-life policies, it should reduce its IMR-1 by about 60 percent, joining the countries with the lower rates of IMR-1.

Ironically, IMR-1 does not get much attention in political campaigns; how often do we hear politicians promising to reduce it?

However, while the lack of health care threatens the lives and impedes the development of thousands of children, President Trump’s responses to health care have vacillated from: “You will have more health care options than you can manage — and the prices will be low” to “We will let Obamacare fail and wait for the Democrats to come to us for alternatives; then they will take what we give them.” Maybe Democrats should send, to Trump, the obituaries of infants who have died because their families could not attain adequate health care. They could also make “Lack of Adequate Health Care” a cause of death.

While Trump is displaying his inability to negotiate a health care bill, he is raising questions about why his religiously conservative constituents don’t hold him more accountable to his commitments, especially since they are not embarrassed to believe, with their opinion leaders and celebrities, that God intervened in the 2016 election to assure his election. They must be aware that a central teaching of the Bible is to serve the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

The IMR-1 in the U.S. is one indicator that access to health insurance is unattainable for too many families. It forces parents to make tough decisions to stretch their meager incomes while medical bills are becoming woefully unaffordable, but, as the Trump Administration is attempting to pass the buck of health care to anyone but themselves, the IMR-1 continues to be almost 300 percent higher than it should be.

An IMR-1 of 5.8, ranking 57th, is the shame of our nation, but who can deny that it will rise as our political leaders debate the benefits and consequences of reducing taxes and insuring preexisting conditions as they calculate the political costs of eliminating up to 26 million people for the insurance market? Maybe they should be reminded that life is a pre-existing condition.

Bruce Bradshaw is pastor of Mennonite Congregation of Boston in Cambridge, Mass.


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  • Conrad Martin

    Could you provide a link to your (according to the latest) statistics? The latest statistics I have found are by WHO from 2015 and by CIA-estimated from 2016, incidentally both of which are before Trump.

  • Amy Kaiser

    Maternal mortality rate is another important indicator of the wellness of a society. Globally, maternal mortality is decreasing, as one would expect. However, in the US, we have experienced a doubling in maternal mortality in the last 20 years. There are significant methodological challenges to deriving this trend because we don’t even care to track maternal deaths very carefully! However, there is a consensus that we are diverging from the global trend. The ACA made maternal healthcare a requirement of health insurance, which helps with affordability but does not address other underlying causes such as a dearth of rural OBGYNs. Pro-life means protecting the life of the fetus, infant AND mother. How tragic to advocate for the life of a fetus then bring it into this world motherless. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5001799/