WASHINGTON — The Children's Defense Fund called Monday for an increase of $4.3 billion in federal spending on children's health problems in fiscal 1989, saying there has been little recent improvement in the overall infant mortality rate and a worsening in some categories.
"Saving our babies' lives is not a budget issue," Marion Wright Edelman, president of the organization, said in a statement.
"It is not a deficit issue," she said. "It is not a political issue. It is a moral issue."
The group released a 250-page report--based on figures compiled by the federal National Center for Health Statistics--to underscore its point.
The rate of deaths in the first year of life declined from 10.8 per 1,000 live births in 1984 to 10.6 per 1,000 births in 1985, a smaller improvement than in any of the previous three years. The rate was 11.9 in 1981, 11.5 in 1982 and 11.2 in 1983.
"If the infant mortality rate is a barometer of the health and conscience of a nation, the state of the Union is in jeopardy," Edelman said.