FACT CHECK: The Commonwealth Fund Maternal Mortality Study Puts the ‘Bunk’ in Debunking 

Caroline Wharton - 15 Jun 2023
Guest post by SFLA Virginias Regional Coordinator Gavin Oxley

GUEST POST: In our Post-Roe America, the mainstream media is grasping for straws by referencing anything that can make saving preborn lives seem like a bad idea — like this study from The Commonwealth Fund on maternal mortality rates. It finds that post-Roe maternal mortality has increased in primarily Republican-led, “abortion-restriction states” (as categorized by the pro-abortion think tank, the Guttmacher Institute). However, any experienced researcher should automatically see the many red flags of viewpoint bias.  

The first and most problematic part of the study design is that while The Commonwealth Fund attempts to find the impact of abortion restrictions after the reversal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 on maternal mortality, the statistics used are from years prior. Researchers used statistics pulled from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2018-2020 mortality data.   

But even if the data lined up with the relevant years, The Commonwealth Fund does not take into consideration the massively underreported statistics on abortion in the United States. The Guttmacher Institute flaunts the statistic that as of June 1, 2023, 46 states and the District of Columbia regularly report their abortion statistics. But digging further into this same report, Guttmacher reports that only 28 states report abortion complications, the majority being the same states that The Commonwealth Fund study includes as “abortion restriction states.”  

Here’s why that is a problem: logically, the more data on abortion that is reported by so-called “abortion-restriction states,” the higher maternal deaths likely to be reported in comparison to the states that do not report abortion complications or any data on abortion at all. This includes California and Maryland, the abortion capitals of the West and East Coasts.  

To give credit where it is due, The Commonwealth Fund does point out some confounding factors that need to be taken into consideration when discussing maternal mortality. The issue comes, however, when they place politics over reason to stretch their conclusions and aid in their attack on the preborn rather than address serious disparities in rural healthcare. 

Many of the Republican states that have fetal protection laws in place are rural states. Due to the nature of many rural states’ geographies, the population is much less dense, and health care centers are few and far between, creating maternity care deserts. These deserts have been present long before fetal protection laws were put in place and are still present after the fact. This disparity in maternity care is a problem but should be solved by increasing care via osteopathic and rural health care programs, not by aborting more babies.   

But the Biden Administration is doing nothing to address these maternal care deserts, instead seemingly worsening the issue. While there is a shortage of OB/GYNs in the workforce, the work of President Biden and his pro-abortion Department of Health and Human Services is aiming to rescind the conscience rights of medical students and physicians. The HHS statement hides this thinly veiled attack under the ideology of “Strengthening Non-Discrimination in Health Care.” 

However, medical students will not want to choose a specialty where they must perform abortions against their conscience and in violation of the patients (the preborn) whom they have taken an oath to protect. If the Biden Administrations really wanted to provide quality women’s health care and address these maternal care deserts, they would not be attacking conscience rights and further inflaming this problem.  

Looking internationally to countries where there is firmer national data on abortion, Poland has some of the strongest fetal protections of any country in Europe. The country also has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world with only two deaths per 100,000 live births.  

Clearly, the study by The Commonwealth Fund is flawed in its experimental design and academic integrity, ignoring an array of alternate explanations. Instead of relying on scientific inquiry to deliver honest and objective results, this study aims to manipulate data to produce results biased to the viewpoint of the Fund and its supporters.  

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