There is certainly no arguing with the belated insight of one of the young mothers featured in a well-done local documentary this weekend when she says, "These babies don't deserve what we're doing to them."
Unfortunately, neither can there be much dispute with the statement of a Sinai Hospital doctor, who says the rate of infant mortality in the United States "is a national scandal" that makes our nation "look like the third world's worst countries."
"It's really sad," notes Donna Hamilton candidly as she walks through a neo-natal intensive care unit in "If You Are Pregnant," which can be seen at 8 p.m. tomorrow on WJZ-Channel 13. (It's nice to see longtime "Evening Magazine" host Hamilton's solid work again, following the demise of that show, whose producer, Jamie Roberts, is behind this special, too.)
Sadly, the local angle regarding this issue is worse than the national picture. Maryland ranks ninth in infant death rates and Baltimore ranks third among large cities.
Impossibly small, prematurely born infants, some with physical deformities, are the too-frequent results of a range of pre-natal neglect, ranging from a simple lack of medical attention to high levels of drug, alcohol and tobacco use by their mothers during pregnancy.
"The message is simple: It's important to start caring for a child before it's born," says Hamilton. And the show provides viewers a toll-free state phone number to call for referrals to affordable pregnancy care centers.
Hammering the message home most powerfully are the stories of a half-dozen young women. One is an alcohol-abusing mother who had never heard the term "fetal alcohol syndrome" until her daughter was born deformed by the condition. Another woman had no pre-natal care because she didn't know she was pregnant until her seventh month.
If there is a fault in "If You Are Pregnant," it is that the show pays no attention to a preceding problem: Maryland and Baltimore's high rates of teen pregnancy. But that is a big enough subject for another special.
ALSO ON THE WEEKEND WATCH:
* Channel 13's weekly shout-fest, "Square Off," is celebrating its 14th anniversary. In tomorrow's show (at 7:30 p.m.), continuous host Richard Sher presides over a reunion of the original quarrelsome panelists: Ron Shapiro, Toni Keane, Elane Stein and Billy Murphy. Mayor Kurt Schmoke, also an early panelist, is scheduled to make an appearance.
* Baltimore's 30,000 to 40,000 Hispanic residents are getting a radio show this weekend. "Baltimore en Espanol," an hour-long program of music, news and talk entirely in Spanish, debuts at 11 a.m. Sunday on WYST-AM 1010. It will air weekly at that time.