Some Calculations on Combat Deaths and Maternal Deaths


The Deseret News published my oped on why women should not be required to sign up for Selective Service--because they are already drafted, but with none of the benefits that come from serving your country.

Being the kind of person who loves to play with numbers, I thought I would do some straight-up calculations comparing combat deaths versus maternal deaths. I took two time periods where the maternal mortality rate was fairly constant, and got out my calculator.

For the time period 1900-1945, the period where US soldiers fought in World War I and World War II, there were about 345,000 total combat deaths, primarily of men. (Of course there were plenty of non-combatant deaths, but we want a head-to-head comparison of combat fatalities and maternal mortality). The maternal mortality rate in the US was fairly steady, though slightly decreasing, over this time period--about 450 deaths per 100,000 births. The average births per year during this period was about 2.8 million. That means that from 1900-1945, a conservative estimate is about 472,500 mothers lost their lives incident to pregnancy and childbirth. 345,000 combat deaths and 472,500 maternal deaths.

I also looked at the period 2000-2020. I really wanted to do 1950-2000, but the maternal mortality rate was dropping precipitously during this time and so to do a good job, I would not be able to take averages over a fairly steady rate; I'd actually have to calculate it year by year, or at least decade by decade--and I didn't have half a day to spend doing that. (Even so, it was plain as day looking at the combat deaths for 1950-2000 that maternal deaths would far outstrip them.) Combat deaths from 2000-2020 amounted to only about 5600 deaths. Even though the maternal mortality rate was far, far lower than in the period 1900-1945, it still averaged around 15 per 100,000 births (and it's actually about 17.6 now--the rate is increasing over time once again). That yields a figure of about 12,300 women who died incident to pregnancy and childbirth from 2000-2020. 5,600 versus 12,300.

We've also heard this week more about the economic cost to women of the COVID lockdown: 80% of those who left the workforce last month are women. The US called on an army of women, especially mothers, to pick up the pieces of the COVID lockdown, and women have paid a terrible economic price for doing so.

I'd say women already sacrifice plenty for their nation. They are already drafted. To draft them a second time is just patently unfair, and invisibilizes all their sacrifices. Women don't deserve a double burden of sacrifice, while men shoulder only a single burden.

What's more interesting to me is that none of these very obvious and plain facts are being discussed in the debate over selective service for women. It's as if both men and women literally cannot see what women do, day in and day out, for our families and our nation. Why is that? Can someone please explain? Because it makes absolutely no sense to me . . .