Embattled North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn stirred another controversy Thursday by asking the Centers for Disease Control to include aborted pregnancies in statistics tallying death rates.
“An unborn child is a human life, no matter what stage of pregnancy the mother is in,” the 26-year-old ultra-conservative lawmaker stated. “Simply ignoring this massacre of Americans is not only wrong, it’s discriminatory.”
In his statement, Cawthorn pushed the theory that “Life begins at conception” and called abortion “infanticide.”
The issue of abortion rights came to the forefront of political debate earlier this month when Politico published a draft of a Supreme Court opinion hinting that conservative justices are poised to overturn longstanding legislation that allows women in the U.S. to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
Pro-choice advocates reacted with horror that the severe cultural shift would force women to seek less safe alternatives to carrying a fetus to term — particularly in cases where that pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. Many conservatives, including intensely Christian figures like Cawthorn, contend abortion is a form of killing.
The CDC tracks deaths and mortality online. That listing states that for every 1,000 live births in the U.S., there are 5.42 infant deaths. The nation recorded nearly 3.39 million deaths in 2021. That number was 19% higher than in the previous year, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the largest jump in 100 years. The CDC also reported that in 2019, nearly 630,000 legal induced abortions were recorded.
The pro-choice organization Planned Parenthood rates access to abortion in Cawthorn’s home state halfway between “accessible” and “eliminated” in its nationwide rankings. If Roe v. Wade was overturned, Planned Parenthood says, “access to safe and legal abortion in (North Carolina) will be severely restricted.”
Cawthorn, 26, became the youngest Republican ever to take office after being elected in 2020. He has fallen out of favor with some members of his party after claiming in an interview in March that he had been invited to wild sex parties hosted by fellow lawmakers who also engaged in illicit drug use. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Cawthorn confided to him those stories had been exaggerated.