When bad things happen

Speaking of Haiti, Minneapolis Star-Tribune reader Lily Coyle's letter from Satan is at the top of my "Wish I'd Written That" list right now.

The letter is a response to evangelist Pat Robertson's assertion that Haiti has been "cursed by one thing after another" because the Haitians made a pact with the devil to break free from French rule in 1804. ("True story," Robertson said.)

Adam and Eve, the original birth story

Adam and Eve

As Coyle points out, people who make a pact with the devil are supposed to pay up in the next life, not in this one.

The question of why bad things happen to some people but not to others is a fundamental one.

A popular answer is that people who suffer have offended God in some way.

The Bible, specifically Genesis 3:16, explains the pain of childbirth as part of the punishment women must suffer for the sin of Eve, who with Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.

Not only that, but the Talmud, a collection of rabbinical writings, says that women who die in childbirth have violated Jewish law in specific ways. Imagine the neighbors trying to figure out exactly what transgression the dead woman might have committed.

Here's my two cents: Bad things happen to good people. All the time. We don't know why, but they do.

Birth in Haiti

Birth was already arduous in Haiti before the earthquakes hit.

The poor Caribbean nation has the Western Hemisphere's highest rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Of 100,000 Haitian women who gave birth in 2005, 670 died, compared with 11 in the United States and 1 in Ireland, which has the world's lowest rate of maternal mortality. Fifty-seven Haitian infants died out of every thousand born in 2007, compared with seven in the United States and two in Singapore, which has the lowest rate of infant mortality.

The United Nations estimates that 63,000 women in the earthquake-ravaged areas of Haiti are pregnant, according to a story in the New York Times.

The rule of thumb is that as many as one in five of those births will have some complications, and the NYT story reports that facilities that have been thrown up in the shambles of the capital and other hard-hit areas are being strained to the limits. Some Haitian birth attendants were still looking for their own family members, the story reports.