WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week is the fifth anniversary of the Black Mamas Matters Alliance’s “Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW),” and this year’s theme is “Building for Liberation: Centering Black Mamas, Black Families and Black Systems of Care.” Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women due to multiple disparities and this week is dedicated to calling out and raising awareness of the inequities that plague Black women within our biased healthcare systems.
If we look at Black maternal health through an economic lens, Black women are paid 63 cents to a white man’s dollar. In February 2022, Black women experienced the highest increase in the unemployment rate than any other demographic landing at 6.1 percent. Since our healthcare is often tied to our jobs, Black women are taxed with spending their reduced incomes of less-than-ideal healthcare options. Their socioeconomic status contributes to their lack of care in the hospital rooms.
If we look at Black maternal health through a healthcare lens, Black women have less access to abortion care and preventative contraceptives due to increased costs and limited care facilities. If remaining pregnant, Black women also must deal with the ignorance of healthcare providers who have not taken the time to learn about pregnancy issues that plague Black communities. Some of these issues include experiencing an increase in fibroid growth and higher blood pressure than white women. Black women must suffer in silence while their counterparts are completely cared for.
If we look at Black Maternal health through a racial lens, Black serving hospitals and care facilities have a lower quality of care which contributes to an increase in preventable pregnancy-related deaths and other issues. Structural inequities and racial stereotyping often contribute to the misdiagnosing of pain and care which can ultimately lead to death.
When people experience pregnancy, they should be able to enter any hospital room or care center without feeling discriminated against, while seeking the adequate care they deserve at a reasonable cost. But Black women simply do not have that luxury.
NOW is dedicated to uplifting research, healthcare providers, and legislation like the 2021 Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, to help continue the conversation and activism around Black maternal health. We will work alongside partners, like the Black Mamas Matters Alliance, who are actively closing these society gaps that contribute to the determent of so many Black women. Lastly, we stand with and sympathize with the families of those who have lost loved ones due to maternal malpractice. Together, we can and will solve this epidemic that harms Black women.
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The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the nation’s leading membership-based advocacy group dedicated to defending women’s rights, advancing equality and combating injustice in all aspects of social, political and economic life. Through educating, mobilizing, and convening a vast network of grassroots activists across the country, NOW advocates for national, state and local policies that promote an anti-racist and intersectional feminist agenda. Since its founding in 1966, NOW has been on the frontlines of nearly every major advancement for women’s rights and continues to champion progressive values today. More about NOW’s efforts and resources is available at NOW.org.