The Cry of the Children
Saving premature infants is expensive. The United States spends $5.8 billion, about a quarter of all expenditures for pediatric hospitalizations, on care of neonates. On that, not surprisingly, we lead the world. But some argue we spend too much on neonatal care and not enough on prevention, which they maintain would reduce the number of preterm babies.
Granted, we must also focus on bringing babies to term and educating people about controllable risk factors that lead to problem pregnancies: smoking, uterine infection, and drug abuse. Pregnancy in the teen years and in middle age. And fertility treatments that increase the risk of twins and other multiples from a uterus designed for babies one at a time.
But how is this a case of either-or? We've had close to a doubling in the rate of twins since 1980 because of fertility drugs, and few people think of twin babies as sick and vulnerable. Yet half of them are premature and need intensive care. One of 6 of the infants who die in the first month is a twin. We can do better.
To paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning: With their pale and sunken faces, we have heard our babies cry. As a nation, we have made a choice, as we have for our seniors, to support the care of the smallest and weakest. It's the right one.