Political Editors / Apr. 13, 2018

Texas: Highest Maternal Death Rate in Developed World? Nope

A study that purported to reveal cuts to abortion providers were deadly got its numbers wrong.

A popularly referenced and widely disseminated statistic by pro-abortion advocates has been proven to be false. Obstetrics & Gynecology recently released its review of a 2012 study that made the startling claim that Texas had the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. Pro-abortion advocates and much of the mainstream media had touted the study’s findings as evidence supporting their claims that women’s health had been dealt a severe blow since the state had passed laws limiting access to abortion. For example, in 2016, The Guardian ran a story with the headline, “Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds,” and its teaser read, “As the Republican-led state legislature has slashed funding to reproductive healthcare clinics, the maternal mortality rate doubled over just a two-year period.”

However, reviewers of the study concluded that the leading statistic for the number of maternal deaths is incorrect. The reviewers said, “Maternal death, a major marker of the health of a nation or state, is defined as ‘the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy … from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy.” The original study had recorded 147 maternal deaths in Texas in 2012, the year of its study. But after reviewing those deaths, reviewers determined that based upon the above definition there were just 56 deaths, almost two-thirds less than the study had claimed. Sonia Baeva, one of the study’s reviewers, explained, “They [people who reported the deaths] would admit that they made a mistake or that there was no way that the woman was pregnant. So, for the majority of cases we did obtain the relevant information and found out that a vast majority were labeled incorrectly.”

In other words, Texas does not have the “highest maternal mortality rate” in the developed world. In fact, the review noted that under the “enhanced method” for calculating maternal death numbers, “the Texas maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 2012 to 2015.” So much for the Slate’s assertion in 2016 that Texas’s slashing of its family planning budget led to a doubling of maternal deaths. What was it that Mark Twain said about statistics?

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