Skip to content

Black women applaud White House proclamation and event on Black maternal health but demand immediate action

Statement on Black Maternal Health Week by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Founder and President Marcela Howell

WASHINGTON — Today, the White House observed Black Maternal Health Week (April 11 –17, 2021), with a proclamation by the president and a roundtable hosted by Vice President Harris and Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council. In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO Marcela Howell issued the following statement:

Black women in the U.S. are three to five times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than their white counterparts. This is both a public health and moral crisis. Our elected leaders and public health officials must examine the many structural and systemic factors that contribute to poor maternal health outcomes for Black women and birthing people. We are encouraged by the roundtable held by Vice President Harris and Susan Rice, which centers the leadership of Black mothers and women to address and eliminate the disparities that, literally, are killing Black women and birthing people.

Black women’s risk factors transcend educational and socio-economic status and do not result from chance. Black women suffer from the dual oppressions of racism and sexism baked into the healthcare industry. Women are less likely to be taken seriously by health care professionals, as symptoms like chronic pain, when presented by a female patient, are often abruptly dismissed as manifestations of a psychological issue. As Black women, healthcare professionals not only ignore us when we need help but, in the past, experimented on us while searching for cures. Indeed, the entire field of gynecology was founded on the backs and broken bodies of Black women, who were nonconsenting test subjects.

“To stop Black maternal deaths and health disparities, we must listen to Black women and take immediate action. We call on Congress to pass the latest and most ambitious piece of legislation introduced by the Black Maternal Health Caucus: the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. Black women and birthing people are dying; it’s time for our government to act like our lives matter!”


In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is a national Reproductive Justice organization focused on lifting up the voices of Black women at the national and regional levels in our ongoing policy fight to secure Reproductive Justice for all women and girls. In Our Own Voice focuses on abortion rights and access, contraceptive equity, and comprehensive sex education as key policy issues. As a Reproductive Justice organization, we approach these issues from a human rights perspective, incorporating the intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation and gender identity with the situational impacts of economics, politics and culture that make up the lived experiences of Black women in America.

Back To Top