There are a few constants attributed to Republicans that are not only beyond refute, they are nearly universally embraced by all conservatives whether the extremists in the teabag movement or evangelical fanatics. One of those “givens” is that although Republicans are notorious for their contempt for babies and children after they leave a womb and become living beings, they do claim ad nauseam that the entirety of their humanity and religious compassion is reserved solely for the zygote and fetus. However, it appears that as many pundits and observers rightly claim, the religious Republican regard for “the fetus” is indeed just cover for the religious crusade to control women or Republicans at all levels of government would be on an urgent mission to protect the fetus from their masters in the oil industry.
It is hardly a secret that the oil industry practice of injecting chemical laden, and highly toxic, water into the ground is a health hazard on several levels whether it is poisoning water supplies, interrupting natural water cycles, releasing radon gas, and causing earthquakes. Fracking is also responsible for, and easily connected to, numerous health conditions including asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, anemia, neurological illness, heart attacks and cancer; but those are acceptable to Republicans because the victims are primarily adults and young children. It is why the oil industry’s legislative arm, Republicans, opposes regulating the fracking industry because there were no fetuses or zygotes harmed.
Now, however, to accompany the many studies linking fracking to increased infant mortality and “low birth weight babies,” two demographics Republicans could not care less about, another new study reveals fracking is related to fetal damage. The researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health discovered that expectant mothers living near active fracking sites have “a higher risk of giving birth prematurely and having dangerously high-risk pregnancies.” The study, published online, analyzed health record data of 9,384 expectant mothers linked to 10,946 neonates from 2009 to 2013.
The retrospective cohort study’s researchers found that expectant mothers living in active fracking areas were 40 percent more likely to give birth prematurely, and are 30 percent more likely to have a high-risk pregnancy; “a label that refers to a variety of dangerous factors affecting the fetus.” The research team wrote in the study’s abstract that “Prenatal residential exposure to unconventional natural gas development, i.e. hydraulic fracturing, activity was associated with two pregnancy outcomes, adding to previous evidence that unconventional natural gas development adversely impacts health.”
The study’s lead researcher, Brian S. Schwartz, is a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School and he said that,
“The growth in the fracking industry has gotten way out ahead of our ability to assess what the environmental and, just as importantly, public health impacts are. Our research adds evidence to the other studies that have been done showing adverse health outcomes associated with the fracking industry.”
It is noteworthy that while this study, like every other, shows a direct correlation between fracking and negative maternal issues, it has not yet established ‘causation’ as to why pregnant women living near active fracking sites are experiencing typically worse outcomes. But, as Professor Schwartz points out, there are several kinds of environmental and health impacts associated with every facet of the fracking process, from increased noise and traffic to poor air quality to toxic water sources; all of which increase maternal stress and adversely affect the pregnancy.
“Now that we know this is happening, we’d like to figure out why. Is it air quality? Is it the stress? They’re the two leading candidates in our minds at this point. From the earliest studies to today all have shown negative health impacts and policymakers need to consider findings like these in thinking about how they allow this industry to go forward.”
Despite the fact that the dangerous impacts on the public’s health related to fracking are certain, they are not fully understood and one might think that what research is already available should drive all policy decisions about how best to regulate, or put a stop to, the practice of fracking; something Republicans will never consider regardless the danger to the unborn. Any conscious American knows Republicans do not care about danger to the woman carrying the fetus, but since “protecting the ‘life’ of the innocent fetus” is paramount to Republicans, they should be leading the crusade to put a stop to fracking.
This latest study, and report, will likely not have any effect on Republicans who claim to live to protect the unborn and yet dutifully protect the oil industry harming them. As it is now, fracking is virtually free of regulatory oversight despite the strong correlation between a mother’s proximity to fracking wells and various health risks posed by “secret and unknown” chemicals used in the process. Last year a Colorado study revealed that as the number and proximity of wells to a pregnant woman’s home went up, so did the likelihood the fetus would develop a heart defect problem. A Pennsylvania study found that “proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half,” but conservative pro-fracking advocates assailed the studies’ results as bogus. The oil industry told expectant mothers “to ignore the medical experts and don’t rely on scientific studies to explain why their fetus was born with birth defects.”
In some states, terrified residents have taken it upon themselves to address the problem and either placed bans or moratoria on fracking on the ballots out of a sense of self-preservation and to protect their children. However, they invariably face lawsuits by the oil industry claiming that citizens do not have any right to keep dangerous carcinogens out of their communities. In fact, last year Halliburton filed suit against North Carolina because lawmakers contemplated reducing the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor against emergency first responders who report to hospitals and the CDC what kind of toxins victims breathe when there is a fracking chemical spill or release into the water supply.
The oil industry demanded, and Republicans complied, legislatures impose extremely harsh penalties, including fines and prison time, against anyone reporting, or even attempting to learn, what kind of fracking chemicals have been released into the environment. They claim the carcinogens and toxins used in fracking are industry secrets and it is one reason why researchers and medical professionals are unable to cite specifically what is harming expectant mothers and their fetus. If Republicans were genuinely sincere about protecting the fetus at all costs, as they claim is their primary function as “social conservatives,” then they would be at the forefront of a movement to put a stop to fracking, but they are not.
Obviously Republicans really do not care about protecting “the fetus” nearly as much as the care about protecting their masters in the oil industry. Perhaps the next time Republicans rail on about Planned Parenthood’s intent to damage the unborn, a Democrat will stand up for “the fetus” and remind Republicans that their masters in the gas and oil industry are in the business of deliberately harming the unborn that had the misfortune of gestating in a womb in close proximity to fracking.