WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOW is proud to join Black Mamas Matter Alliance and other organizations across the country in showing our support for Black Maternal Health Week. While it is clearer than ever that the inequitable and discriminatory American health care system fails Black mothers, these mothers have been feeling this pain for centuries. The United States has the highest pregnancy-related death rate in the developed world — a rate which is on the rise, and Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.
NOW believes that it is important not just to elevate this issue, but to highlight the many policy solutions that could support Black mothers. One such solution is the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 a historic legislative package introduced to Congress by Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL–14), Alma Adams (NC-12), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The Momnibus Act would invest in community-based organizations, the growth, and diversification of the perinatal workforce, improvements in data collection, support for moms and babies exposed to climate change-related risks, and social determinants of health, like housing, transportation, and nutrition. These are essential steps toward narrowing the maternal health gap and achieving racial justice in health care.
NOW also supports the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Workplace discrimination based on pregnancy and related medical conditions disproportionality affects Black women, and might be connected to the Black maternal health crisis. Taxing and inflexible work environments are ones where women are unfairly told to lift heavy items while pregnant or being denied appropriate time off for prenatal appointments and medical visits after labor.
Supporting Black mothers means continuing to provide them with resources after their children are born. This is why NOW believes that passing the American Jobs Plan of 2021 is essential to get the economy back into shape and to support mothers who might not otherwise have access to affordable health care. We must also remember that abortion care is an essential part of maternal health care. Almost six out of ten women who have had abortions are mothers. Black mothers deserve to be able to make decisions about their own bodies and families, and that simply isn’t possible when safe abortion providers are too far away or the procedure is too expensive. Therefore, eliminating the discriminatory Hyde Amendment by passing the EACH Act is absolutely crucial to Black maternal health, as it would enable federal funding of abortion care for those in need.
We are encouraged that the White House officially declared Black Maternal Health Week 2021 and for the first time a presidential administration has publicly acknowledged this crisis and the significant disparities that Black women face in maternal health. NOW calls on Congress to act and pass the above key legislation that put Black women’s health first. Black maternal health in the United States is in crisis, and we can no longer ignore the structural issues that put Black mothers’ lives at risk. It’s time to fight to improve Black maternal health in every way we can.