Statement from In Our Own Voice President and CEO Marcela Howell WASHINGTON — Once again,…
The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the racial health disparities prevalent in the United States, but leaders in the Reproductive Justice space know these inequities are not new. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. We know that racism, not race, is the driving force behind maternal health inequities as racism impacts systems of opportunity and access. For example, racist lending practices and redlining have disenfranchised Black neighborhoods and resulted in food deserts, underfunded hospitals, and a greater risk of exposure to harmful environmental toxins, as seen in Flint, Mich. Racism in education and practice has impacted the care Black women can access and receive, and the treatment prescribed. Further, education and income status are not protective factors for Black women against maternal mortality. If Reproductive Justice leaders are to truly improve the health and wellbeing for Black women, we must dismantle the white supremacist, patriarchal hierarchy our society operates on, and create a world where the virtues of justice and equity are central to programs and policies.
This Black Maternal Health Week, we aim to elevate the work of Black women in this space and call on our allies to support our work not just this week, but every week. For generations, Black women and Black women-led organizations have had the solutions to address the maternal health crisis. We see this witnessed through Congresswomen Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Alma Adams’ (NC-12) formation of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which has grown to be one of Congress’ largest caucuses comprised of over 100 members organized around the goals of elevating the Black maternal health crisis and advancing policy solutions to improve maternal health outcomes. The Caucus has come together to introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (the Momnibus), a set of 12 bills that address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America. In Our Own Voice and the National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) is thrilled about the Momnibus and its commitment to addressing systemic racism, social risk factors, and gaps in the social safety net that lead to the maternal mortality crisis.
We will continue to work with our Congressional partners to advance the Momnibus, while recognizing that Administration-level oversight is necessary, to ensure that once the bill package is passed and signed into law, it does not fall short in implementation and accountability. To this end, NBEC has come together with over 150 cross-sector organizations to call on the Biden-Harris Administration to establish a permanent Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing (OSRHW). Sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing (SRHW) is a key component of women’s overall health and quality of life, especially in terms of maternal health and the perinatal period. However, policies, funding streams, and inequitable infrastructure related to SRHW, make services and supports inaccessible for agencies, systems, providers, and patients especially. The OSRHW will ensure permanent infrastructure to develop a federal strategy for promoting SRHW through a human rights and racial equity lens, and better coordinate the actions of the many departments and agencies whose actions impact SRHW. Establishing the OSRHW coupled with the successful passage of the Momnibus, will be critical to addressing the intersectional issues impacting Black moms and babies. We celebrate wins that have already been made and continue to push on, in justice and joy, to achieve a world where all Black mothers and babies thrive.
NBEC The National Birth Equity Collaborative is a nonprofit, nonpartisan Black women led organization that creates solutions to optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, policy advocacy, research, and community-centered collaboration. More information is available at birthequity.org.
Read In Our Own Voice’s fact sheet on the Black Maternal Health Crisis.