LONDON — Homicide, especially involving an intimate partner and gun violence, is now a leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States, a troubling new report finds. Researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health found that pregnant women are more likely to be murdered than die from pregnancy-related complications, including high blood pressure disorders, hemorrhage, or sepsis.
These tragic deaths often involve an act of intimate partner violence or gun violence, according to the study. Researchers argue that ending male violence and gun crimes could save hundreds of women and their unborn children each year throughout the U.S.
The study notes that intimate partner violence is a problem worldwide, with one in three women reporting an incident of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by a partner during their lifetime. Women in the U.S. have a higher likelihood of dealing with intimate partner violence than women in other high-income nations, researchers add.
2 in 3 pregnant women homicides involves a gun
Between 2008 and 2019, the Harvard team found that 68 percent of the homicides involving pregnant women in the United States was the result of someone using a firearm. Moreover, Black women were significantly more likely to die from gunfire than White or Hispanic women.
While examining gun ownership rates and state-level firearm laws, the team found that few suspects in intimate partner violence cases ever face conviction. There are also several loopholes which allow many people to access guns, even if it’s questionable whether they should still have that right or not.
Does overturning Roe v. Wade play a role?
“The recent dismantling of women’s reproductive rights in the US brings further urgency to these issues,” study authors Rebecca Lawn and Karestan Koenen claim in a media release. “For instance, reproductive coercion, a common aspect of intimate partner violence, increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, while restricting access to abortion endangers women as unwanted pregnancies potentially amplify risks in abusive relationships.”
Luckily, the researchers note that pregnancy increases the number of interactions women generally have with healthcare professionals. This presents pregnant women with an opportunity to say something and get help if they are in danger.
Since intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homicide for women globally, screening for these dangers during medical appointments could save two lives, the team concludes.
The findings appear in The BMJ.