Shortly after the Supreme Court ended guaranteed abortion rights in the United States on Friday, Scott Pruitt, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma, declared the ruling had delivered “JUSTICE for the Unborn!”
“Praise God! What an amazing step forward to protect the innocent,” Pruitt wrote in a tweet. “I will always fight for the unborn and the sanctity of life.”
However, the policies Pruitt fought for throughout his career ― especially during his short but tumultuous tenure as President Donald Trump’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief ― increased types of pollution linked to fetal defects and premature births.
By stymying efforts to reduce fossil fuel use, and actively promoting an increase in how much oil, gas and coal are burned by the world’s largest economy, Pruitt played a notable role in hastening the rate at which the planet’s temperature will rise, a shift expected to cause increasingly deadly storms, floods, fires and ultimately famines, wars and mass migrations.
But what’s perhaps less abstract, and more jarring, is how those same policies allowed an increase of tiny, invisible particles circulating in the air around drilling sites, highways and power plants.
While carbon dioxide travels skyward, microscopic bits of particulate matter lace the air and lodge in the lungs of the people who breathe it. Studies have linked exposure to that pollution with an almost jaw-dropping list of medical conditions, from the expected, like asthma, lung cancer and heart diseases, to the more surprising, such as dementia, schizophrenia and erectile dysfunction.
And research indicates that “the unborn” and the recently born pay a particularly high price.
About 20% of newborn deaths worldwide are the result of complications linked to air pollution exposure, according to the 2020 State of Global Air report.
The connection has long been understood. Between 2000 and 2005, federal scientists monitoring pregnancies in New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania found that exposure to fine particulate matter during both the earliest and final stages of pregnancy were “strongly associated” with premature birth.
Researchers in South Texas examined birth records between 2012 and 2015 and found a 50% higher chance of preterm birth among pregnant people…