Michael New writes for National Review Online about an interesting new study that challenges conventional wisdom.

On Wednesday a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that high and rising rates of maternal mortality in the United States are due to flawed data. Starting in 2003, a pregnancy checkbox was included in the national death certificates. Researchers found that this box was checked for many deaths unrelated to either pregnancy or childbirth. While previous data found that the U.S. maternal-mortality rate increased by a whopping 143 percent since 1999, these new data found that there was only a 2 percent increase since that time.

Supporters of legal abortion and their allies in the mainstream media often try to blame pro-life policies for increases in the maternal mortality rate. However, their analyses consistently fail to persuade. The most recent maternal-mortality rate data come from 2021, when abortion was still legal in all 50 states. It was not until after the Dobbs decision 2022 that a significant number of states enforced laws protecting preborn children.

A better example comes from Texas. A 2016 Obstetrics and Gynecology study found that the Texas maternal-mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012. Countless media outlets were quick to blame Planned Parenthood funding cuts for this increase. However, the purported increase in maternal mortality took place before the cuts took effect. Furthermore, corrected data showed that the Texas 2012 maternal-mortality rate was greatly overestimated.

Maternal mortality remains an important public-policy issue. Unlike many other industrialized democracies, the United States has not experienced a long-term decline in the maternal-mortality rate. Furthermore, even the corrected data show that there are high rates of maternal mortality among African-American women. These new data will hopefully enable journalists and public health scholars to better understand trends in maternal mortality — instead of reflexively blaming pro-life laws for maternal-mortality increases.