I'm sure if the world of the Natalists comes to be, this murder rate will accelerate exponentially when abortion is not an option.
The new modest proposal?
Kill the pregnant woman.
A yearlong examination by The Washington Post of death-record data in states across the country documents the killings of 1,367 pregnant women and new mothers since 1990. This is only part of the national toll, because no reliable system is in place to track such cases.
Largely unseen by the public, it is a phenomenon that is as consequential as it is poorly understood. Even in the past two years -- as the Laci Peterson homicide case has become a public fascination, with a jury last week recommending that her husband, Scott, be sentenced to death in her killing -- little has been said about the larger convergence of pregnancy and homicide: how often it happens, why, and whether it is a fluke or a social syndrome.
"That's a formidable number -- and that's just the tip," said Judith McFarlane, who studies violence and pregnancy at Texas Woman's University and who described the void of reliable numbers as "embarrassing." She observed: "You can't address a problem that we don't document. You can't reduce them. You can't prevent them. In essence, they don't exist."
In all, 13 states said they had no way of telling how many pregnant and postpartum women had been killed in recent years.
Louis Mizell, who heads a firm that tracks incidents of crime and terrorism, observed that "when husbands or boyfriends attack pregnant partners, it usually has to do with an unwillingness to deal with fatherhood, marriage, child support or public scandal."
Young women may be at more risk than others, several statewide studies suggest -- possibly because of more volatile relationships with young men or less money or greater uncertainty about parenthood. Of women whose cases were researched in detail, 16 of 72 were teenage victims -- or about 1 in 5.
They included Vanessa Youngbear, a 16-year-old cheerleader in Oklahoma who was nearly seven months' pregnant when her former boyfriend, then 18, blasted her with a shotgun. Witnesses said the boyfriend had not wanted to pay child support and had worried that he might face charges of statutory rape if authorities found out he had impregnated a minor.
At any age, "pregnancy is a huge, life-altering event for both the male and the female," said Pat Brown, a criminal profiler based in Minneapolis. "It is certainly a more dangerous moment in life. You are escalating people's responsibilities and curtailing their freedoms."
For some men, she said, the situation boils down to one set of unadorned facts: "If the woman doesn't want the baby, she can get an abortion. If the guy doesn't want it, he can't do a damn thing about it. He is stuck with a child for the rest of his life, he is stuck with child support for the rest of his life, and he's stuck with that woman for the rest of his life. If she goes away, the problem goes away."
Although maternal homicide is only recently drawing notice, considerable research has been done on battering of pregnant women. Studies go back 20 years, and many specialists have come to agree that 4 percent to 8 percent of pregnant women, 160,000 to 320,000 a year, are physically hurt by husbands, boyfriends or partners.