Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative
Joan F. Neal
April 15, 2022
This week marks the five-year anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week in the United States. During Black Maternal Health Week, advocates and elected officials build community and draw awareness toward the maternal mortality epidemic that is sweeping our nation. At NETWORK, we believe that access to quality, affordable health care is a fundamental human right. It is our moral responsibility as Catholics to ensure accessible health care for all and eliminate racial and economic health disparities. As Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) who is the co-chair and co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus stated, “This work is deeply personal” during an interfaith event NETWORK helped to organize.
Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in February revealed that the Black maternal mortality crisis has only gotten worse. The data shows that the mortality rate for Black women rose by 26 percent in 2020—a rate three times greater than that of white women. In an interfaith event last month, Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) said, “Overlooking the pain of Black women in health care results from implicit bias and racism.” The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, especially for birthing people of color. This is unjust and sinful.
On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a historic call to action to improve lives and health outcomes for birthing people, especially people of color, across the country. The Biden-Harris administration made a series of announcements that will work toward health equity including extending Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full year after pregnancy in 11 additional states, and proposing “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designations to make improvements in maternal health outcomes. These announcements, along with the 12 key bills in the Momnibus Act, are vital steps forward to invest in maternal health and dismantle systemic racism in our health care systems.
Black mothers should not fear for their lives or their infant’s life while giving birth. As Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) said during Wednesday’s Black Maternal Health Week event, “Birthing while Black should not be a death sentence.” NETWORK is proud to see the work done by the Biden-Harris administration to achieve healthcare equity for Black mothers, and continually supports the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to pass the Momnibus. With ongoing advocacy and a commitment to Build Anew, we can end the Black Maternal Mortality crisis in the United States. And we should do that.