On Monday, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) led 22 of her colleagues in reintroducing a resolution to designate April 11-17, 2020 as Black Maternal Health Week to raise awareness about the Black maternal health crisis. The resolution was led in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black mothers in the United States are three to four times more likely than white mothers to die from pregnancy-related complications and are two times more likely than white mothers to suffer from pregnancy-related illnesses, known as maternal morbidities.
“The potential ramifications that could come with giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic — specifically a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting African Americans — is of particular concern to Black women who were already facing a maternal health crisis in our country,” said Senator Harris. “Now more than ever, we need to address this issue. During Black Maternal Health Week, we must continue in the fight to ensure Black women are taken seriously when they speak about their health concerns, and remove disparities and implicit bias from our health care system.”
Joining Harris on the resolution are Senators Merkley (D-OR), Durbin (D-IL), Blumenthal (D-CT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Booker (D-NJ), Klobuchar (D-MN), Hirono (D-HI), Markey (D-MA), Jones (D-AL), Duckworth (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), Wyden (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Feinstein (D-CA), Murray (D-WA), Bennet (D-CO), Baldwin (D-WI), Peters (D-MI), Smith (D-MN), Brown (D-OH), Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Stabenow (D-MI).
The resolution is sponsored by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for Reproductive Rights, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Black Women’s Health Imperative, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Commonsense Childbirth, Every Mother Counts, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, March for Moms, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Black Midwives Alliance, National Medical Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Perinatal Task Force, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Southern Birth Justice Network, and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
“This resolution says, unequivocally, that Black Moms matter,” said Representative Adams, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to raise awareness of Black Maternal Health Week, and urge our Congressional leaders to take action on one of the greatest public health crises of our time.”
“The Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) thanks Senator Harris and Congresswoman Adams for their continued support and amplification of Black Maternal Health Week (#BMHW20). As the founders of #BMHW20, BMMA believes that the experiences, voices, and maternity care work of Black women must be centered in order to address the U.S. maternal health crisis – hence the importance of recognizing April 11th – 17th as Black Maternal Health Week!” said Angela D. Aina, Interim Executive Director of BMMA.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights applauds Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Alma Adams on the introduction of this year’s Black Maternal Health Week Resolution. Now more than ever we need recognition of this crisis and federal solutions to save the lives of Black mothers,” said Jennifer Jacoby, Federal Policy Counsel. Breana Lipscomb, Senior Manager, U.S. Maternal Health and Rights Initiative, and BMMA Board Member added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that chronic underinvestment in the public health infrastructure is deadly and Black people pay the price. This year’s resolution is a call to action, reminding us that in this time of crisis we cannot sacrifice the human rights of birthing people.”
“Black Maternal Health Week is an important opportunity to bring national attention to the maternal mortality crisis facing Black women. This is a year like no other, as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, an emergency that is endangering the health and economic well-being of millions and having a particularly harmful–and deadly–impact on the Black community. Sadly, we know the maternal mortality crisis and COVID-19 disparities share a common underlying force: racism and structural inequality. Now is the time to address those evils in this country once and for all, and do all that we can to ensure health equity along racial lines,” said Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow for the Century Foundation
The United States is one of only 13 countries in the world where rates of illness and death during pregnancy are on the rise. From 2000 to 2014, the U.S. experienced a substantial increase of 26.6 percent in maternal mortality rates.
A full copy of the resolution can be found here.