Exploiting Infant Mortality for Medicaid Expansion?

Certain voices hold this odd pull on our heartstrings. They are like sad oboes or something, something that makes you want to throw all your money at the radio while yelling, “I love you.” I don’t know what it is.Jonathan Goldstein

Ohio Senator Shannon Jones (R- Springboro), chairman of the Senate Medicaid, Health & Human Services Committee, and committee member Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), have joined forces to study ways to reduce the state’s infant mortality rates.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Ohio ranks 48th in the nation in overall infant mortality, 49th in black infant mortality, and 37th in white infant mortality.

Jones, Tavares, and other members of the Medicaid, Health & Human Services Committee have begun a statewide tour to hear concerns regarding this issue, possibly to craft related legislation. Field hearings started on August 22 in Cincinnati and will stretch into early October, hitting Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland.

Before the traveling began, Dr. Ted Wymyslo, director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), joined Tavares and Jones in a press conference to express his support. Dr. Wymyslo announced formation of the Ohio Institute for Equity in Birth Outcomes, a partnership between ODH and CityMatCH, a national group of urban maternal and child health leaders.

The three-year partnership between ODH and CityMatCH is to promote infant mortality awareness and health equity. Reportedly, the state’s latest budget sets aside $6 million over the next two years to fund programs to curb Ohio’s infant mortality problems.

Dr. Wymyslo said that while he doesn’t know for sure why Ohio’s infant mortality rates are so high, he believes the issue goes beyond childbirth and hospital care to women’s access to care, nutrition, and other community assistance.

Why the sudden emphasis on infant mortality?  Perhaps it is because CityMatCH supports Medicaid expansion, and Governor John Kasich is still bent on tying Ohio’s hands to this federal partnership even after legislators nixed it in the Ohio budget.

We can bet that programs are going to be proposed to research infant mortality, which require Medicaid expansion funding, while simpler solutions are ignored.

A case in point—there is an increasing body of studies indicating a link between abortion and subsequent preterm or premature births.1 Preterm births are the single highest factor contributing to infant death.

According to the ODH Induced Abortions in Ohio report’s latest statistics available, from 2011,2 the total reported induced abortions were 24,764 (28,123 for 2010). It is not difficult to conclude a correlation between these numbers and Ohio’s high infant mortality rates.

Correspondingly, African American women make up 10% of Ohio’s population, yet are receiving nearly 40% of the abortions and are experiencing a much higher rate of infant deaths. These disproportionate numbers are not surprising in that the abortion industry has historically targeted African American women and their babies, locating most abortion centers in areas with high minority populations.3

The link between abortion and preterm births is being recognized elsewhere. For example, North Carolina has passed recent legislation requiring that school sex education programs include information on abortion and other activities that put women at risk of later premature births—which are a huge medical cost to the state as well as contributors to infant mortality.

With little or no tax funding necessary, conveying this information could be advised for those who educate, counsel, or provide medical services to girls and women—especially abortion providers—so that women are fully aware of abortion as one contributing health risk factor to themselves and the lives of subsequent children they may carry to term.

Yet Senator Tavares told media before embarking on her trip across the state (emphasis mine),

“Infants among ethnic and racial populations are dying prematurely and unnecessarily. This is not just a moral and ethical issue, but as legislators we have a fiduciary responsibility to address this unacceptable health outcome for the taxpayers to ensure we are spending money efficiently to get the best health outcomes for all of our children.” 5

Senator Tavares was one of the few legislators who voted against the Ohio budget that rejected Medicaid expansion.

She has been a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion to cover the state’s working poor. Tavares told the Columbus Dispatch in April that Medicaid expansion is about economic development, with billions coming in to support health care. 6

Despite the fact that Medicaid expansion would provide a steady revenue stream to leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood—which perpetuates one cause of infant mortality—Senators Jones’ and Tavares’ pilgrimage may really be a bipartisan attempt to pull Ohioans’ heartstrings so that they yell “I love you” to Governor Kasich’s relentless Medicaid expansion push.


Featured-ColumnistPaula Westwood is Executive Director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, board member for Ohio ProLife Action, and weekly pro-life news contributor for the Son Rise Morning Show, broadcast nationally via Sacred Heart Radio/EWTN (513-728-7870, pwestwood@cincinnatirighttolife.org).

Read all of Paula Westwood’s OCR articles on life, protection of women, Ohio Medicaid expansion here.

All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.

1 Elizabeth Ann Johnson, M.D. and Steven Calvin, M.D., Induced Abortion and Risk of Subsequent Preterm Birth


2 Ohio Department of Health, Annual Induced Abortions in Ohio


3 Protecting Black Life, Planned Parenthood Targets Minority Neighborhoods


4 North Carolina Health Curriculum Pre-term Bill


5 Minority Caucus Blog: Senator Tavares Partners with Senator Jones To Combat Infant Mortality Rates


6 Columbus Dispatch, Black Caucus pushes Medicaid expansion, health disparities data


Information included in this article regarding abortion as one contributing factor to infant mortality was submitted as written testimony for the Ohio Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee field hearing on infant mortality in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 22, 2013.