Four pregnant women were murdered within six days around the U.S., including Jessie Davis in northern Ohio, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Homicide is a leading cause of death in among pregnant and postpartum women. Statistics show that more pregnant women or mothers of newborns die at someone’s hands than of any individual medical cause. A national study out two years ago identified 617 homicides involving pregnancy between 1991 and 1999. A Washington Post analysis a year earlier uncovered 1,367 killings of pregnant woman and new mothers between 1990 and 2004. In both cases, the authors called the totals underestimates. Ohio has modified its standard death certificate this year to track the relationship between homicides and pregnancies. The form now includes a space to indicate whether a woman who met a suspicious or violent end was pregnant.
Those who deal with the issue of domestic violence say the numbers reflect a sad reality. About one out of every 20 pregnant women endures physical abuse, says Debbie Lee of the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The fund estimates that 324,000 pregnant U.S. women a year are punched, kicked, pushed down – or worse. Each year there are about 960,000 incidents of violence against women by their former and current spouses or partners. The 47-bed shelter run by Cleveland’s Domestic Violence Center regularly sees pregnant visitors. Director Cathleen Alexander said women in relationships with a history of abuse often report escalating violence during their pregnancy; other women said the pregnancy itself launches attacks. “People look at pregnancy as a miracle of the human condition,” Alexander said. “To have it also be the occasion of terrible violence and death [is]incomprehensible. But it happens.”