Elizabeth Warren is Tackling Maternal Mortality and Prioritizing Black Women’s Health

The racial disparities in maternal mortality outcomes have been a serious subject of discussion ever since Serena Williams opened up about her potentially fatal childbirth

Photo: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore from Peoria, Arizona

Photo: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore from Peoria, Arizona

The racial disparities in maternal mortality outcomes have been a serious subject of discussion ever since Serena Williams opened up about her potentially fatal childbirth. Her healthcare quickly shined a light on how medicine constantly fails and dismisses Black women. In fact, reports show Black women are three to four times more likely than White women to die during childbirth. It’s a disturbing statistic and Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to do something about it. On Wednesday she unveiled a plan to address the crisis that disproportionately impacts Black women.

During the She the People Forum on Wednesday, Sen. Warren outlined her plan to address the high maternal mortality rates of Black women. In a country that has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, Warren believes more needs to be done and she has a few ideas.

She suggested a financial bonus for hospitals that work to improve health outcomes for new Black mothers. As for hospitals that fail to do so, Warren said they will “have money taken away from them. I want to see hospitals see it as their responsibility to address this problem head-on and make it a first priority. The best way to do that is to use money to make it happen, because we gotta have change and we gotta have change now.”

She went on to explain that “doctors and nurses don’t hear African American women’s medical issues the same way that they hear the same things from White women.” It also is regardless of income, as both Serena Williams and Beyonce have been honest about their dangerous labors. The fact two Black women as rich, powerful, and successful as Serena Williams and Beyonce could have both died while giving birth, speaks to how great this issue truly is — economics aside. ProPublica reported in 2017, that Black women who live in wealthy neighborhoods with highly funded hospitals and high-quality institutions are still much more likely to die from pregnancy complications, which proves that bias and racism is a major contributing factor as to why the death rate for Black mothers is so high. It’s proof that white supremacy is even woven into our healthcare system

You can measure a country’s values by how it treats its mamas and babies — and America is failing. We need to call it out: Black moms are dying in and around childbirth at rates three to four times higher than white moms because of structural racism,” Warren told Refinery29. “Medical providers should pay for the high rates of Black maternal mortality in our country — and keep paying until they fix it.”

I think it speaks volumes that Warren is prioritizing Brown and Black women and our healthcare needs. She clearly understands the urgency of standing by health equity and giving Brown and Black women the fair, equal, respectful, and compassionate treatment we deserve. The Journal of Perintal Education reports that the difference in the quality of prenatal delivery and postpartum care that Black women receive compared to White women also plays a huge factor as to why the maternal mortality rate for Black women is higher.  Part of the problem is that so many physicians and health providers are still operating under the idea that Black and Brown women have a higher threshold for pain, which often leads to a dismissal of their symptoms. It’s stereotypes like these that are literally risking our lives. No one is advocating for us.

“The evidence all points in the same direction. The mistreatment of Black and Brown women around maternal health is the direct result of institutional and structural racism. We need bold solutions to the epidemic of maternal mortality in America,” Warren tweeted on Wednesday.

These are the kinds of issues we need to be looking into when it comes to selecting the 2020 presidential candidates. Maternal mortality is a literal crisis that needs to finally be addressed. Warren isn’t the only candidate that has spoken out about it. Sen. Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation last year to fix it by targeting hospitals for negligence. Rep. Lauren Underwood and Rep. Alma Adams launched the Black Maternal Health Caucus earlier this month with Ayanna Pressley and Lucy McBath.

While some find Warren’s financial penalty suggestion an overwhelming option for hospitals, especially those that lack resources, it is a start and a step in the right direction. The fact that Warren is using her platform and her power to try putting hospitals and healthcare providers in place could certainly stir the change that we desperately need to see. Black mothers are dying and we can’t afford to just sit back and ignore it anymore.

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Black women's healthcare Elizabeth Warren Maternal mortality
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