New Study: Maternal Mortality in Texas Rose Earlier than Previously Claimed


April 13, 2018
CONTACT: Nicole Stacy
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Problematic Aspects of Influential 2016 Study Go Beyond Poor Source Data, CLI Vice President & Lead Researcher Says

Washington, D.C. – New research by Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) Vice President and Director of Data Analytics James Studnicki, Sc.D. and by John Fisher, Ph.D., J.D., published online today in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, challenges the methodology and findings of a 2016 study led by Marian MacDorman of the Maryland Population Research Center. The study purported to show stable rates of pregnancy-related deaths in Texas between 2000 and 2010, followed by a substantial increase from 2010 to 2012.

The MacDorman study has been cited more than 300 times by online news sources and by approximately 70 scholarly research articles.

In their letter “Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate: Disentangling Trends From Measurement Issues,” Studnicki and Fisher analyzed the same source data and found:

  1. A proportionally larger increase in maternal mortality occurred between 2004 and 2006, which was in effect masked by an adjustment made only to the years 2000-2005 by MacDorman et al.
  2. The MacDorman study compared Texas trends unfavorably to California, whereas late maternal mortality – deaths after 42 days – was significantly higher in California than in Texas and the nation during the study period.

Other studies, including previous CLI research, have identified shortcomings of the source data, but the new CLI letter is the first to call for a formal correction or clarification of the MacDorman study based on its methodology.

“The impact of the MacDorman study cannot be overstated, and it contains major errors that are not explained solely by poor data sources,” said lead author Dr. James Studnicki. “We agree that a woefully inadequate data reporting system contributed to its flawed conclusions. However, the Texas legislature established an investigative panel in 2013 that produced results that were inconsistent with the MacDorman paper three months before it was published. Under those circumstances, the wisdom of publishing it was questionable and the need to critique it inevitable. It has contributed to an egregiously unfair portrayal of a public health crisis in Texas in the eyes of the nation and has distorted important research and public policy issues. That damage will not be easily undone.”

CLI President Chuck Donovan added:

“The alleged doubling in Texas’ maternal mortality rate was quickly seized by Planned Parenthood and its political allies, chiefly former state senator Wendy Davis, as proof that Texas cost women their lives by redirecting tax dollars away from the abortion industry. Though the MacDorman study failed to establish any such cause and effect, credulous media ran with this convenient narrative.

“We join local voices calling for an overhaul of the U.S. maternal mortality tracking system and case-level analysis of deaths among women of childbearing age. This issue is too important to continue reliance on data as now reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Reform of this system must include identifying all deaths that occur to women who have been pregnant – women who suffer miscarriages, have a live birth, and, yes, those who have induced abortions. Reporters also need to act responsibly and refrain from writing alarmist stories unsupported by the facts.”

Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.



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