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Black Maternal Health Week: “We lift up Black mothers and call on public officials to address Black maternal health disparities”
WASHINGTON — Today, is the kick-off of Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17, 2022), when advocates raise awareness of Black maternal health disparities in the U.S. Black women and birthing people have unacceptably poor health outcomes — including high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity.
“Black women in the U.S. are three to five times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than their white counterparts, which is both a public health and moral crisis,” said In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO Marcela Howell. “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.”
Black women’s risk factors transcend educational and socio-economic status. Black women suffer from the dual oppressions of racism and sexism endemic in 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. Healthcare professionals not only ignore Black women when they complain of pain or report serious symptoms but, in the past, experimented on Black women without their consent. In fact, the field of gynecology was founded on unethical trials and experimentation on Black women, who were nonconsenting test subjects.
“We lift up Black mothers and call on public officials to address Black maternal health disparities,” said Howell. “We demand that Congress pass the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021.”
The bills that comprise the Momnibus Act would help reduce racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health. The legislation calls for multi-faceted, comprehensive and holistic solutions to address the root causes of structural racism and gender oppression. These policy solutions to the maternal and infant mortality crisis are grounded in an awareness of racism’s impact and are intentionally designed to address these power imbalances.
“Black women and birthing people are dying,” said Howell. “It’s long past time for our Congress 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 leaders at the national, regional and state levels in our ongoing fight to secure Reproductive Justice for Black women, femmes, queer, trans and gender non-conforming people and youth. Our strategic partners include Black Women for Wellness, Black Women’s Health Imperative, New
Voices for Reproductive Justice, SisterLove, Inc., SisterReach, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, The Afiya Center and Women With A Vision.