January 17, 2007

Saving Babies

On EAForums and elsewhere I’ve seen and participated in discussions about Safe Harbor laws. I have always supported these laws, that create places that women who want to abandon their babies can abandon them (no questions asked) instead of leaving them in a trash can or dumpster.

Today I’m not convinced they work, mainly because I haven’t seen any statistics that encourage me to continue believing that they work. Some say women who dump their children often don’t seem them as children but as problems, and in those extreme cases, a safe harbor would not help. However, so many states have Safe Harbor laws now that we should be seeing statistics that tell us how well these laws work. Instead, I’ve seen suggestions that they result in an increase in abandonments without making much of a dent in the number of dead babies that are found in dumpsters and the like.

Leaving that question open, (and still hoping to see more statistics) there is also the issue of universal health care which is on many of our minds as a health care crisis looms in this country. Into the arguments for and against universal health care comes the increasingly apparent indication that universal health care closes the gap in infant mortality rates in rich vs. poor populations.

Genetically, Canadians and Americans are quite similar. Our health habits, too, are very much alike […] The only major difference between the two countries that could account for the remarkable disparity in their infant and adult mortality rates, as well as the amount they spend on health care, is how they manage their health care systems.

The facts are clear: Before 1971, when both countries had similar, largely privately funded health care systems, overall survival and mortality rates were almost identical. The divergence appeared with the introduction of the single-payer health system in Canada.

Single payer translates to better survival rates for children. In a very real sense, differences in the American system are killing babies. More babies than are found in dumpsters and trash cans, that’s for sure.

So, if we care about children dying, why are we passing Safe Haven laws when what re really need is a single payer health care system to make much more of an impact?

And if you want to say, “well, we don’t want to just save all those babies of poor families,” it turns out that a more healthy poor population benefits the rich as well.

It has become increasingly apparent, as data accumulate, that the overall improvement in health in a society with tax-supported health care translates to better health even for the rich, the group assumed to be the main beneficiaries of the American-style private system. If we look just at the 5.7 deaths per thousand among presumably richer, white babies in the United States, Canada still does better at 4.7, even though the Canadian figure includes all ethnic groups and all income levels.[…]


The solid statistics amassed since the 1970s point to only one conclusion: like it or not, believe it makes sense or not, publicly funded, universally available health care is simply the most powerful contributing factor to the overall health of the people who live in any country. And in the United States, we have got the bodies to prove it.

Emphasis mine. Posted by James at January 17, 2007 1:25 PM
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NYTimes story this weekend on Safe Haven laws:


One of the key points of the article, besides what neonaticide experts point out about the psychology of women who are apt to dispose of their babies (instead of abandoning them in a safe place), is that laws have passed but no statistics have been kept regarding Safe Haven efficacy... which is why you can't find any.


Posted by: at January 17, 2007 2:10 PM

Thanks for the reference, MJ.

Posted by: James at January 17, 2007 2:54 PM

Parade Magazine (that piece of shit) ran a story this Sunday titled something like, "Is America Still #1"? I didn't read it, my dad showed it to me, and all we looked at together was two tables -- the one where we're still #1 (we have the most rich people!!), and the one where we're not (infant mortality, doctors per capita). I don't remember the rest of the items in the tables, but I can't get past the feeling that Bush et al took control of this country in a crucial time for our growth and stunted it severely. We're a nation of frightened, stupid, superstitious WalMart shoppers and the rest of the world is zipping by.

Posted by: Maggie at January 17, 2007 3:24 PM

For some reason, I can't seem to get really excited about the fact that other people are filthy rich.

Posted by: Julie at January 17, 2007 3:43 PM

Bush and his cronies will of course tout that we are still the "richest nation in the world".

Posted by: briwei at January 17, 2007 3:50 PM

I have to think that most people believe it's going to happen to them, with the same naivete that allows them to believe in flying saucers and crackers that become human flesh.

Posted by: Maggie at January 17, 2007 3:57 PM

And human flesh that becomes crackers. Mmmm, soylent green.

Posted by: Julie at January 17, 2007 4:10 PM

I should have said "what results in a healthier poor population benefits the rich as well."

Posted by: James at January 17, 2007 5:40 PM

I'm still not behind socialized medicine, at least as Canada has implemented it. While it may have better infant mortality rates, I'd like to see mortality rates over all, especially for curable diseases. The wait for specialists is ridiculous there, and if you get a dud, you are out of luck; no second opinions.

Posted by: pippa at January 19, 2007 8:12 AM

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