It’s always tough to be a struggling young mother. This week it’s been particularly hard.
First the Federal government shutdown halted the WIC program, leaving 9 million mothers and infants without vital nutrition assistance. Then NIH turned away dozens of children who were scheduled to begin experimental cancer treatments, also because of the shutdown. And finally there was the news that Miriam Carey, the woman who was killed while leading police on a chase between the White House and the Capitol yesterday had been suffering from postpartum depression.
The events are all examples of what should be the fundamental responsibility of society -- supporting and protecting its most fragile citizens -- and how we are failing miserably at the job.
Each year, about 13,400 children are diagnosed with cancer, which is the number one cause of death by disease of kids in the U.S. Yet the same lawmakers who are standing before cameras this week demanding that clinical trials be reinstated also voted to cut the NIH research budget for childhood cancer research dramatically in recent years. WIC, too has been cut recently, by about $200 million since last year.
Between 11 and 20 percent of all pregnant women are estimated to suffer from postpartum depression, which translates to close to a million in the U.S. each year. Yet medical providers -- and certainly health insurance companies -- can’t agree on how to screen and treat patients for it, and who should be doing that screening and treating.
We will probably never know why Carey did what she did, and whether more mental health resources might have helped her. Similarly, however much we spend on curing kids of cancer or supplying mothers with formula and lactation support, there will always been some who fall through the net.
But it seems we only pay attention to those who need us at moments of crisis, when they are in need every single day.
It’s always tough to be a struggling young mother. But maybe this week the rest of us will notice and remember.