December 19, 2004


Researchers Stunned By Scope of Slayings: Further Studies Needed, Most Agree (Donna St. George, December 19, 2004, Washington Post)

In the mid-1990s, Cara Krulewitch sat in a dark, cramped file room in the office of the D.C. medical examiner, poring over autopsies for days that became weeks, then months. She was an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to the District.

Krulewitch wanted to see whether maternal deaths were being undercounted, as was common elsewhere across the country. Granted access to confidential death files, she assumed she would find more deaths from medical complications of pregnancy -- embolism, infection, hemorrhage -- than anyone knew.

What she stumbled upon instead was a surprising number of homicides: 13 of 30 maternal deaths, more than 40 percent. "I was just stunned," she recalled. "You assume it's a quirk in the numbers. A blip."

Krulewitch dug into medical archives and came across a 1992 journal article from Chicago and a 1995 study from New York City. In both, homicide had emerged as a significant cause of maternal death. It was difficult for the uninitiated to comprehend: Were pregnant women being killed in notable numbers?

"I didn't understand it at all," said Krulewitch, whose study was published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. [...]

Even now, studies that analyze maternal homicide are relatively rare.

One of the most comprehensive studies came from Maryland, where researchers used an array of case-spotting methods, expecting to find more medical deaths than the state knew about. Instead they discovered that homicide was the leading cause of death, a finding published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 2002, Massachusetts weighed in with a study that also showed homicide as the top cause of maternal death, followed by cancer. Two of three homicides involved domestic violence. "This is clearly a major health problem for women," said Angela Nannini, who led the study.

A culture which treats pregancy as an illness rather than a blessing and says men have no obligation to the mothers of their children can hardly be surprised when these vile notions are acted upon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 19, 2004 1:01 PM

That article isn't analysis. It's a jumbled set of unsupported statistics. This is just a new crusade for activists to use to indict American society.

Posted by: Brandon at December 19, 2004 3:29 PM

What else are youngish, healthy women (you have to be both to become pregnant) supposed to die of?

Homicide is also a leading cause of death of teenagers, and nobody is going to say that Americans devalue teenageism.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 19, 2004 4:16 PM

Two of three homicides involved domestic violence.

That sounds to me like the clue to follow.

How have the learned heads around here diagnosed Harry's condition? Acute chronic contrarianism?

Posted by: Captain Courageous at December 19, 2004 9:01 PM

As Orrin says, the conventional wisdom is always wrong.

Well, that's not quite right. But the reaction to almost any statement, by most people, will be conventional (according to their lights), and that will almost always be incomplete. And always un-thought-out.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 20, 2004 12:25 AM

Whicfh is why we keep you around--where else could we get the conventional wisdom of the New Deal Democrats of the 30s and 40s unaltered by experience?

Posted by: oj at December 20, 2004 8:30 AM


What else are women in that age bracket to die of?

Fatalities among women from all causes in the 13-35 year bracket isn't large to begin with.

Yes, it is a health problem for women, but receives attention due only to the virtual absence of all other health problems.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 20, 2004 11:44 AM

Oh, okay, then screw 'em.

Posted by: oj at December 20, 2004 12:39 PM


You are the one who made the silly conclusion:

"... can hardly be surprised when these vile notions are acted upon."

Can you point out a time when such things didn't happen?

Didn't think so.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 20, 2004 3:26 PM

Who cares? They're gonna die of something--may as well kill them for getting pregnant.

Posted by: oj at December 20, 2004 3:41 PM

I did a rough calculation, that shows that among women 16-35 (which would include almost all pregnant women), given birth rates etc., women 16-35 are pregnant about 10% pf the time.

If pregnancy is totally uncorrelated with being murdered, then about 10% of homicides would be of pregnant women.

Orrin's hypothesis is silly on its face. The alternative hypothesis, that being pregnant makes an American woman somewhat less likely to be murdered, is at least in the ballpark.

One problem is that 'murder' is a legal concept. It isn't murder until a court says so.

You really have to look at homicide rates, but then you have to make judgments about which were real accidents, which were various forms of manslaughter etc.

Verdicts are of no help, because we know that one of three homicides is never cleared by arrest, much less court process. Even when they go to court, what ought to be murders get bargained down to manslaughter, etc.

Then you would have to assume that police work, prosecutor work and all the other variables have not changed (improved?) over a longish period.

This is the fundamental problem with statistical analysis designed to support or denigrate capital punishment.

You can sort of rely on murder rates to show what is happening in the police/court/homicidal idiot community -- that is, it goes down when lots of young men are overseas, as in 1942-46 -- but you cannot compare it across to any other social phenomenon.

Murder is undefined and therefore incomparable.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 20, 2004 10:18 PM

"Homicide was found to be the leading cause of death for pregnant women in Maryland, according to a March 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Using death records and coroner reports, state health department researchers found 247 pregnancy-associated deaths between 1993 and 1998. Among those deaths, 50 were murders. By comparison, homicide was the fifth-leading cause of death among Maryland women"

Posted by: oj at December 20, 2004 10:22 PM

Meaningless, unless age-correlated etc.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 21, 2004 1:26 PM


Excellent point. Virtually all the pregnancy deaths happened in the 12-35 age group, which is a unique subset of Maryland women, in that death from all natural causes is probably at its lowest rate.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 22, 2004 6:28 AM

drug abuse, alcoholism, accidents, highway deaths.... There are nearly limitless other causes you'd expect to be more prevalent than murder.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2004 8:15 AM

The only one of those I'd expect to be higher, maybe, than murder for women in that age group would be suicide.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 22, 2004 2:19 PM