Blog By Barry

January 21, 2009

Homicide is not the leading cause of death among pregnant women

Filed under: Rape, intimate violence, & related issues — Ampersand @ 9:04 pm

At the end of an otherwise interesting list of convicted people various feminists would pardon — including Assata Shakur, The Amiraults, and all nonviolent drug users (a suggestion that would save millions of tax dollars) — one feminist wrote:

I would pardon every woman convicted of killing her husband before the self-defense plea was admissible in all 50 states because, after all, it probably was. We live in a country where the biggest risk factor for the death of pregnant women is homicide and the number of women killed by their husbands or partners constitutes 41 percent of all women killed (only 11 percent of men killed are done in by their wives or partners). It’s not a far leap of logic to think that those women were making sure they didn’t become part of that 41 percent statistic.

Virtually all of that is wrong.

I would pardon every woman convicted of killing her husband before the self-defense plea was admissible in all 50 states because, after all, it probably was.

First of all, there has never been a time when pleas of self-defense were inadmissible. My guess is that she means any woman convicted of killing her husband before expert testimony on battering and its effects (what used to be called “Battered Women’s Syndrome”) was admissible in all states.

Second of all, it doesn’t appear that the inclusion of excluded expert testimony on battering often changes the outcome of a trial. To quote from a congressional report:

With respect to the disposition of cases, a review of state court cases found that convictions of battered women were reversed in less than one-third of the cases appealed and that, of those reversals, less than half were due to erroneous exclusion of, limitation of, or failure to present expert testimony on battering and its effects.

These findings suggest that, contrary to popular misconceptions, the introduction of expert testimony on battering and its effects does not equate to acquittal for a battered woman defendant.

Still, I agree that expert testimony on battering should be included in any relevant case, and probably juries and judges aren’t giving it as much weight as they should. So there are certainly some good pardons in there. But let’s face it — there are also women who kill husbands for motives other than self-defense.

We live in a country where the biggest risk factor for the death of pregnant women is homicide…

We really don’t. Pregnant women in the US are about eight times as likely to die of medical causes (such as bleeding during childbirth) than they are of homicide. Car accidents come second, and homicide comes third.

It’s unclear if homicide is any more common among pregnant women than it is among non-pregnant women of a similar age (young women are both more likely to be murdered and more likely to be pregnant than other women). But maybe it is — the reporting system isn’t great, and some scholars say that homicide of pregnant women is badly undercounted. But there’s no way it’s so undercounted that homicide is “the biggest risk factor.”

I’ve seen feminists make this false claim before. It’s too bad, because it obscures the biggest preventable cause of maternal death in the US — which isn’t murder, but inadequate health care. Better prenatal care could save hundreds of women’s lives every year.

…and the number of women killed by their husbands or partners constitutes 41 percent of all women killed (only 11 percent of men killed are done in by their wives or partners).

This is misleading and wrong.

It’s wrong because the real numbers are actually a lot more extreme: only 2.5% of men murdered are victims of intimate homicide, versus about 33% of women murdered.

It’s misleading because a portion of that difference isn’t caused by more women being killed by intimates, but by more men being murdered by strangers. In 2005, 1,181 out of 3,545 women who were murdered, were killed by boyfriends or husbands, while 329 of the 13,122 men who were murdered, were killed by girlfriends or wives. To just report the percentage of intimate homicides, without reporting the difference in the total number of murders, creates a false impression.

3 Comments »

  1. Further, other factors come into play. Women below 21 yrs of age, women not married to their partner, women who are non white are at apparent higher risk. There are risks when the father is not the husband, and risks from persons other than the father.

    Some have also claimed that the numbers indicate that pregnancy does in fact reduce the liability for homicide when the statistics are properly analyzed.

    Comment by A Voice of Sanity — November 20, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  2. I’m just wondering what made you write this blog in the first place. What makes you so angry about people saying homocide is the number one cause for death of pregnant women? Maybe it’s a good thing to say to spread more awareness to pregnant women to be more careful who they trust and what they do while they’re pregnant. Thing of it like that instead of taking the offensive for some strange reason.

    Comment by Kim — September 28, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  3. The final point about more men being murdered total would have much more impact if, of that total 13,122, the portion of men murdered by intimate partners were anywhere near 1,181, rather than the lower number of 329. With the numbers presented, 3.6 times as many women are killed by intimate partners. By gross totals, not measured by percentages skewed by the higher gross total of murders of men by all assailants. To say “a portion of that difference isn’t caused by more women being killed by intimates,” is itself misleading, because a much more significant portion of the difference in percentages clearly *is* caused by more women being killed by intimate partners.

    I also doubt that concern about the risk of violent crime against pregnant women has ever dissuaded someone from trying to find a solution for the lack of sufficient prenatal care in the US. Access to healthcare for women is a cause supported by feminists, you know.

    Comment by E.M. — May 15, 2012 @ 7:12 pm


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