A mysterious spike

Is it just a coincidence? Jacquielynn Floyd at the Dallas Morning News wonders.

A 2011 law forced through by the state’s Republican-led Legislature placed such demanding restrictions on clinics performing abortions that dozens of them have shut down. In some cases, women in poor and rural areas have been left with no access to reproductive care at all.

The law was overturned by a sharply worded U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, but the damage has been done.

During roughly that same time span, Texas saw a dramatic spike in the number of women who die while pregnant, during childbirth, or in the first postnatal months. According to a disturbing study published by the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, U.S. rates are among the worst in the developed world, and Texas’ problem is the worst in the nation.

“After 2010, the reported maternal mortality rate for Texas doubled within a two-year period to levels not seen in other U.S. states,” the recently published report states. “There were changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas, including the closing of several women’s health clinics.”

Still, the report hastened to add, the reduction in services alone cannot explain such a dramatic increase. These are complicated issues, and researchers caution that while they may overlap, the oft-misunderstood maxim that “correlation does not imply causation” applies as much in this case as in any.

Texas being what it is, there are likely to be other causes in play too or instead.

But the urgency with which state lawmakers went after family planning clinics in the cause of promoting women’s health seems curiously absent in the face of this tragic trend.
Last week, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott called the Texas mortality findings “alarming.” But contrast that tepid response with the governor’s criticism of the June Supreme Court ruling, when he said Texas pushed for the severe law that shuttered clinics because the state wanted “the highest health safety standards for women.”

Or with Attorney General Ken Paxton’s insistence last year that the law was put in place to “protect the health of Texas women.” Or with former Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the clinic restrictions into law while hailing the measure as “an important day for the health of Texas women.”

What about the health of the nearly 600 Texas women who died of pregnancy-related causes between 2011 and 2015? Or the thousands more who suffered life-threatening events related to their pregnancies, emergencies widely attributed to poor prenatal and postnatal care, and to inadequate access to health services?

You might ask that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

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