Washington – On Thursday, in recognition of International Maternal Health and Rights Day and during National Minority Health Month, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) led a group of their colleagues to introduce a resolution (S. Res 154) to designate April 11-17, 2019 as Black Maternal Health Week. Black Maternal Health Week aims to raise awareness about the Black maternal health crisis.
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.
“Black women’s maternal health in the United States is in a state of crisis,” said Senator Harris. “It’s time we place widespread focus on the issue of maternal health for Black women and direct resources toward ensuring safe pregnancies and deliveries for all women—especially Black women—and providing training to address implicit bias in the medical profession.”
Feinstein and Harris were joined by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on this resolution.
The resolution was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12). Harris and Adams worked closely with Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a Black women-led, cross-sectorial alliance, to recognize the annual week of awareness. This legislation is also endorsed by the Center for American Progress, Center for Reproductive Rights, Commonsense Childbirth, Every Mother Counts, In Our Own Voice, National Association to Advance Black Birth, National Birth Equity Collaborative, National Black Midwives Alliance, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, SisterSong, and WomenHeart.
“We have a Black maternal health crisis in this country, and as a Black mother and grandmother, it is deeply personal to me. Too many Black women do not have access to the quality pre- and post-natal care they deserve,” said Congresswoman Adams, who introduced the House resolution. “I thank Senator Harris for introducing the Senate Resolution to designate Black Maternal Health Week and draw attention to this issue. I co-founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus in the House because Black maternal health matters to me, my family, and my constituents. In this most diverse Congress, it is time to push the most diverse and inclusive policies and shed a light on the blatant inequities facing Black women.”
"The Black Mamas Matter Alliance applauds the introduction of this resolution to recognize Black Maternal Health Week,” said Elizabeth Dawes Gay, MPH, Co-Director of Black Mamas Matter Alliance. “We founded Black Maternal Health Week to bring greater attention to racial disparities in maternal health and spark action to address the racial discrimination and inequities that shape maternal health care experiences and outcomes among Black Mamas. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Alma Adams, and for their commitment to changing the future for Black Mamas.”
“The only way to make health care a right and not a privilege in our country is to confront the systemic racism that is the driving unequal health outcomes and treatment for black mothers,” said Dr. Jamila Taylor, Senior Fellow and Director of the Women’s Health and Rights at the Center for American Progress. “What Senator Harris’ Black Maternal Health Week resolution does is make clear that a fundamental right like access to quality health care should not depend on the color of your skin.”
“Black mothers die and experience poor maternal health outcomes at staggering rates,” said Jennifer Jacoby Altscher, Federal Policy Counsel at Center for Reproductive Rights. “This is an urgent human rights crisis, and must be made a national priority. That is why we urge Congress to pass this Black Maternal Health Week resolution. The resolution is an important step towards raising awareness and developing proactive solutions to the US maternal health crisis.”
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 2013, the U.S. experienced a substantial increase of 26.6 percent in maternal mortality rates.
The resolution can be viewed here.