Courtesy of Black Mamas Matter Alliance
Courtesy of Black Mamas Matter Alliance

Black women in the United States face significant health care disparities, including the highest maternal mortality rate in the country.

According to numerous statistics, Black women are three to four times as likely to die from childbirth as white women, yet only 87 percent of Black women of reproductive age have health insurance coverage.

Black women are also more likely to live in states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, meaning they disproportionately fall into the coverage gap and Black women are more likely to experience complications throughout their pregnancies than white women.

April 11 through April 17 marks the second annual Black Maternal Health Week, which, among other things, highlights the United States’ frighteningly high rate of maternal deaths among the highest of developed countries around the world.

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) is among a group of Democratic lawmakers behind the Black Maternal Health Caucus, which was launched with more than 50 founding members, including a number of Underwood’s freshman female colleagues such as Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Lucy McBath (D-Ga.).

About 700 women die each year in the U.S. due to complications from pregnancy or giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some 65,000 women nearly die of pregnancy-related complications.

While every other developed country has seen a decrease in maternal deaths in recent years, the U.S. has seen an increase, and the numbers are even more staggering for African-American women, data shows.

“If you’re an African-American … your risks of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher than if you’re white,” Dr. Neel Shah, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an OB-GYN at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told ABC News. “It’s not tied to income. It’s not tied to education. … It’s something about the lived experience of being African-American.”

Adams said Black mothers are dying at alarming rates and that the nation is “truly in the midst of a national health crisis.”

She said she wants Congress to do something about it and created the caucus to provide legislative solutions.

“More than half of these deaths are preventable,” Adams told ABC News.

Supporters said current policies aren’t doing enough to prevent complications and save Black mothers’ lives.

“That is unacceptable in America and we need to change it. We cannot and must not accept this,” said Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader.

Congress has already passed several bills aimed at reducing maternal mortality rates, according to ABC News.

But caucus members said there’s little focus on the impact on minority groups and racial disparities. Supporters said the caucus can change that.

“There is something that we have to fix within our health care system and our society that says Black mamas lives don’t matter,” said Elizabeth Dawes Gay, a co-founder of Black Mamas Matter.

Racial bias is a certainly a factor and federal leaders, health professionals and mothers from all walks of life must work together to close gaps in the system, Dawes Gay said.

“Recognize the disparities, but to also envision a brighter future for Black mamas,” she said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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  1. Adams said Black mothers are dying at alarming rates and that the nation is “truly in the midst of a national health crisis.” This a quote from the above article addressing the state of
    Black Maternal Health Week Highlights Alarming Disparities
    Stacy Brown April 17, 2019 —For the past 15 years, I as a Black Certified Professional Midwife have gone to DOH attempting to deal with this issue within the Home Birth Population in DC. I graduated from a school of Complementary Medicine when you didn’t need a License to be a Naturopath, I petioned when Mayor Gray, Sr. Garcia, and Dr. Woldu were part of the BON /DOH for a return to license traditional Midwives to save our babies and still have the unanimously voted YES to allow us to be productive, care providers which was never sealed and officiated. But I am here now to witness the prophetic words that I saw when the hospital in SE DC closed…here I am reduced to an educator and advocate when I could be taking care of the Clients who are on Medicaid that are not cared for at hospitals like GW, where they have Nurse Midwives. So, to Me, once again I received a check for my DC license and a rejection of my letter that clearly shows the Mayor has the power to claim this as a state of emergency and I should have my license “grandmothered” to Me under this state of emergency so WE, as board certified, trained professionals can assist in this crisis. I wasn’t able to provide for my family as a trained professional because the blind eye to this maternal health crisis was not “sanctioned” as an obvious necessity in our neighborhoods and for our black babies! So “when” does black lives matter is my question. I will always be a Midwife, over 2000 babies have come thru my hands, not 1 fatality of Mother or Baby…not 1, and yet WE as Home Birth Midwives are overlooked as Health Care Providers for those who choose out of hospital births—How long will this continue? How many more deaths? I still reside in DC and I hope this will lead to open communications and real time solutions that I and other Midwives will be given our proper acknowledgement as The Real Traditional Matriarchs of Birth in not only in DC, but especially in America as a part of black history! Like Kehlani, the celebrity, who just had a home birth–black women who are healthy women and are of childbearing age, empower Yourself and learn about your history so You can save your babies! It’s not only Your responsibility, it is Your right to do so. I am still waiting to be invited to sit at the table where there is no representation for all black mother and babies voices to be heard, let’s change that!

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