Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier on reducing maternal deaths associated with pregnancy, childbirth and beyond in the state:
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contains the alarming news that maternal deaths associated with pregnancy, childbirth and its aftermath up to one year later have been rising over the past decade in the United States. They are now among the highest in the developed world. That comes after USA Today reported last year that South Carolina has the ninth-worst record in the nation. All of this is unacceptable.
Nationally, the CDC has estimated that 700 women die each year from complications of pregnancy, and over 400 of these deaths are preventable. But, it added, there is a major need for better reporting from the states, only a few of which have given focused professional attention to the problem. More precise figures would give the medical community a better idea of the scope of the challenge.
Similar data were reported this spring but, sadly, that got little attention. What makes the new report of particular interest here is that South Carolina's Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Commission, created by the state Legislature in 2016, played a major role in preparing the CDC report as one of the pioneering efforts in the nation to measure and understand the causes of maternal deaths.
Last year, the commission reported to the Legislature that from 2014 through 2018, South Carolinians experienced pregnancy-related deaths at a startling rate of 25.5 per 100,000 live births. To put this in perspective, the recent CDC report estimated that the national rate has risen from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 16.7 in 2016. That means South Carolina has been losing young mothers to complications of pregnancy at a much higher rate than the national rate, which is already alarmingly high.
Of particular concern in South Carolina and the nation is the even higher rate of pregnancy-related mortality among African-Americans. Those maternal mortality rates have been as high as 3 times greater than for whites over the past decade.
For every woman who dies from complications of pregnancy, "exponentially" more suffer major health problems, according to a recent paper from the Medical University of South Carolina. Data on Severe Maternal Morbidity show that the nationwide incidence of serious short- or long-term health consequences, including near-fatal complications, associated with pregnancy and delivery increased 45 percent between 2006 and 2014, and now affect 52,000 women a year. Black women are roughly twice as likely to suffer from these "near misses."
Thankfully, there are several efforts underway to find answers to these problems. The causes of the rise in maternal mortality in South Carolina and elsewhere are being intensively studied by the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Commission and similar state-level medical bodies, as well as the CDC. They include complications from cesarean deliveries, more women deferring childbirth into their late 20s and 30s, and a rising number of women with chronic health conditions. A recent University of Michigan study found that in 2014, compared with 10 years earlier, there were nearly 40 percent more pregnant mothers with dangerous chronic conditions posing a risk to the mother and child.
The aim of the studies is to identify preventable deaths and educate physicians on better protocols. Improving access to adequate prenatal care is a critical component.
Nationally, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has launched the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health program, which distributes "bundles" of guidelines for improving maternal health based in part on the detailed research being done by state maternal morbidity commissions. South Carolina participates in the AIM program under a federal grant.
Much thought is being given to improving maternal health, which should lead to a reduction in the unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. That's a good start. But we must do more to save mothers.
The Times and Democrat on The House openly voting on continuing the impeachment process of President Donald Trump:
It's real that opponents of Donald Trump have been referencing impeachment since even before the president took office.
From the day he became president, the same opponents trumpeted corruption and collusion with the Russians in election interference in 2016. The Russia story was at the heart continuing impeachment talk.
Three years into his presidency, the investigation of said Russian meddling produced no conclusive evidence that Trump was at the heart of any plot regarding the election outcome. The impeachment crowd had to find a new reason.
Enter Trump's phone call to the Ukranian leader in which he requests that Ukraine probe former Vice President Joe Biden's role in that country -- a request anchored in Biden's son's lucrative dealings with a Ukranian oil company.
Swiftly, Democratic leadership increasingly under pressure from liberals in Congress decided to shift course and call for an impeachment inquiry. With scarcely a mention of any of the dozens of other accusations they have leveled against Trump over time, the Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated they would move ahead with the inquiry based almost exclusively on Trump seeking a prid pro quo, with a foreign power investigating his political rival in return for American military aid.
Now the president and country are embroiled in an increasingly divisive examination of impeachment through House Democrats seeking information and testimony on a daily basis.
With the 2020 presidential campaign underway in earnest, Democrats express public confidence that the process is the right thing to do though they know impeachment is a political process that will not end with the Republican U.S. Senate voting to oust Trump.
They should have learned from the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. In a totally partisan process, Republicans pushed ahead with impeachment and a trial in the U.S. Senate, which refused to expel the president. Through it all, Clinton became more popular as a majority of Americans believed that while he lied about a sexual affair, such was not sufficient to oust him from office.
Democrats now are amid an equally partisan process, running the risk that it will backfire on them politically in 2020, when Trump could well be re-elected.
They contend the impeachment "inquiry" is their duty to the Constitution. Yet Pelosi refuses to put the House on the record with a vote on continuing the process. That's because of the risk that Democrats in vulnerable districts could suffer with the same type of backlash for Trump that benefited Clinton two decades ago.
If impeachment is indeed the right thing to do and not just a politically partisan exercise, let those in favor stand up and be counted. The House should take a vote - now.
The (Greenwood) Index-Journal on Texas police officer Amber Guyger's conviction:
He was in his own living room. He was eating a bowl of ice cream.
Botham Jean was not armed. He was not standing up. He was not advancing in any way toward Amber Guyger. But he was shot and killed by Guyger, a Texas police officer.
She entered Jean's fourth-floor apartment thinking it was her own, which is one floor directly below Jean's apartment.
Consider a couple of things in this scenario. Guyger had worked a long shift. She walked the flights of stairs to what she thought was her apartment, still wearing her uniform and armed with her service weapon. She finds the apartment door unlocked.
Is that enough? Is that a sufficient reason for pulling the trigger?
Many feared it would be. Many believed that a jury would excuse the officer, mainly because she is white and the man she shot is black. Sadly, their fears were and are warranted.
This was not a situation in which a third-shift plant worker returned home and entered what she thought was her own apartment and discovered someone else inside.
No, this involved a trained police officer. Sure, officers get tired. They have lives outside their jobs and can be exhausted after a day's work. But again, they are trained. Or are supposed to be. Perhaps her mind was wandering as she ventured up yet another flight of stairs to the fourth floor, somehow missing the fact that she was not on the third floor. Perhaps there are no distinguishing markings on doors, such as numbers, that would indicate she had the wrong apartment.
But then what? She discovered the door was unlocked. That can explain her decision to be prepared for an intruder, but are the apartments identical? Does her living room furniture and layout exactly match that of the apartment occupied by her upstairs neighbor? That he was sitting there eating ice cream doesn't give pause to consider she might be the one intruding?
Or is it simply OK for a white woman, trained officer or not, to presume a black man sitting on a couch eating a bowl of ice cream is a clear and present threat and danger, thus excusing her for shooting him?
Let us return to the fact that she is supposed to be trained. She's got a gun and is ready to face an intruder. Should she simply shoot first and not ask questions?
During her trial, Guyger apologized for making a mistake. She should have apologized, but the jury also did the right thing in finding her guilty of killing an innocent man.
Sometimes criminal cases are shades of gray, but this case was literally and figuratively as clear and distinct as black and white.