Calling on Congress to Support Black Women’s Maternal Health

Last week, advocates urged lawmakers at a Congressional briefing to confront the high rate of maternal mortality among black women and develop policies to ensure and safeguard their health and dignity.

According to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. maternal mortality rate has risen by more than 50 percent between 1990 and 2016. Black women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women are. Some contributing factors to maternal mortality include the rise in obesity, diabetes, and lack of access to contraception and abortion services—but maternal mortality rates for black women also have roots in high levels of poverty. Black women are also more likely to experience pregnancy complications than white women.

During the congressional briefing, members of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), a maternal health advocacy committee organized by SisterSong, briefed members of Congress and non-profit groups about the difficulties facing black maternal health in the U.S. BMMA representatives called on lawmakers to improve policies that impact the health of pregnant black women and stressed that access to affordable contraception and abortion is a human rights issue.

“Racial discrimination is very real in the health care system,” said Monica Simpson, Executive Director at SisterSong, at the briefing. “Many women face incredible obstacles to affording services and then deal with disrespect and discrimination. From providing sexuality education and improving the ways that doctors and patients interact with each other to empowering women to make informed choices about their own bodies and the care they receive, there is so much more that we can do. We need to listen to pregnant women, talk to pregnant women and love pregnant women. That includes ensuring that programs and policies support the health and the needs of pregnant women.”

Meliss Arteaga is an editorial intern at Ms. She studied at California State University Northridge and has a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minor in gender and women studies.

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