The United States has an abysmal record when it comes to maternal mortality. More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications in the US than in any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die risen. For Black women and their babies, this is a crisis. When it comes to maternal mortality, black women die four times as often as white women. Infants born to African-American mothers die at twice the rate of babies born to white mothers. In Washington D.C. alone, 17 of the 18 women who died from pregnancy-related causes between 2012 and 2016 were black. The data shows that this is an issue all over the country.
This is not acceptable.
This year, the long pursued goal to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities became a specific quest to ensure no other black women needlessly die during childbirth. The collective voices of a new coalition of maternal health organizations, MoMMA’s Voice that includes the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), the Preeclampsia Foundation, the March of Dimes, Black Mamas Matter, and individuals and families who have been affected were heard. One person, Charles Johnson IV, whose wife died shortly after child birth due to post-natal neglect has been just one of many committed citizens fighting for the well-being of women. And famously sports superstar, Serena Williams shared her own story of how with all the financial resources she needed, she almost died after the birth of her daughter. This spotlight has resulted in the House and Senate coming together for passage of the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act– H.R. 1318/S.1112. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to sign into law.
The bipartisan bill authorizes $12 million a year in new funds for five years for states to create maternal mortality review committees to help states improve how they identify and investigate maternal deaths. It begins the process of eliminating these glaring health disparities. The bill, which shows the power of activism and perseverance assists states in establishing and funding Maternal Mortality Review Committees (MMRCs) in all states. These committees will track, analyze and identify local solutions to prevent maternal deaths. This legislation will also advance efforts among states to standardize the collection and analysis of data so that we can develop a understanding of why mothers are dying in the United States
This bipartisan legislation moves the country closer to addressing the tragic realities of maternal mortality. And it is one of the first steps in moving to a longer-term solution to addressing preventable maternal death and improving maternal and infant health in the United States.
Change on Many Fronts
Thanks to this Act, change will come in communities. It will come in providers offices. It will come in hospitals and birthing centers. It will also come through the voices of those who will work to inform policy. Maternal Mortality is one of the many battles we must fight in order to ensure the health and wellness of black women.
BWHI spent the final weeks of the 2018 mid-term elections encouraging and empowering black women to seize their political power to impact change. And indeed they did – turning out and voting in record numbers. Together we can and must continue to fight to lift up our circumstances and shape our destiny. This legislation shows that even in these uncertain times we can set a new course. We urge the President to sign the bill before Congress adjourns this year. There are several maternal-related bills still pending in Congress. We urge black women to continue to highlight and raise awareness about maternal mortality in your community and by reaching out to Members of Congress and state representatives. Continue to follow us to keep abreast of the work ahead at www.bwhi.org.