Tag Archives: restrictive voting laws

End the Black Maternal Health Care Crisis Now

Losing Our Mothers in the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Partner Blog: Losing Our Mothers in the Black Maternal Health Crisis

Alaina Ruffin
September 11, 2023

End the Black Maternal Health Care Crisis NowMore than four months have passed since the sudden death of track and field champion Tori Bowie after prematurely going into labor. This weekend would have been her 33rd birthday and also marks Women’s Equality Day, which recognizes the 103rd anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. While women’s rights have certainly advanced since then, inequities against historically vulnerable communities persist — including within the medical field. For the ongoing health crisis faced by Black birthing people, every day poses a new risk of health complications or even death.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the maternal mortality rate for Black women in 2021 was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, nearly tripling the rate compared to white women. Regardless of education, income, or social status, this striking disparity is experienced by Black birthing people of all backgrounds. Tori Bowie, Serena Williamsand Keisha Knight Pulliam are just a few of the Black women who have experienced the effects of this devastating crisis, and there are countless others. The disproportionate number of Black people affected, as compared to other communities, is exactly what makes this a crisis — and these continued deaths loom as a stark reminder of medical racism’s continued effects on Black birthing people and the state of our health care system overall.

The Black maternal health crisis has a long and gruesome history in the United States. From rampant sexual assault and violence, including rape and forced sterilization, to issues like over-criminalization and over policing negatively impacting maternal healthimplicit bias permeates the medical realm — and Black birthing people often bear the heaviest burdens. As described by the Women’s Leadership and Resource Center at the University of Illinois Chicago, many social, political, and economic conditions affect Black birthing people’s reproductive lives — including systemic issues like poverty, substance abuse, and mental illness — and ultimately interfere with their rights both to have and to not have children.

According to the CDC’s largest, most recent data compilation, 84 percent of pregnancy-related deaths were deemed to be preventableThis statistic is even more alarming when considering how often health care professionals neglect to take a Black patient’s pain or medical concerns seriously. In fact, the United Nations announced in a report this past July that the United States has the starkest disparity in maternal mortality rates between Black women and white women. While the report examined nine countries across North and South America, one of its main takeaways was that Black birthing people are systematically neglected and mistreated across the countries studied, which ultimately causes pregnancy complications and delayed interventions — often leading to death. These findings ultimately reinforce how medical racism and misogynoir have very real, harmful impacts on Black birthing people not just in our nation, but across the globe.

Unfortunately, disproportionate maternal mortality rates aren’t the only threats to Black maternal health. In the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned last year, moves from states to restrict or outright ban abortion have already had dangerous impacts on Black birthing people. For instance, forced pregnancies in states where abortion is illegal or inaccessible place a heavy strain on historically vulnerable communities — including Black, Latina, and low-income people — that ultimately jeopardizes their physical, emotionaland financial well-being. For Black birthing people who already face barriers to reproductive and gynecological servicesthe inaccessibility of potentially lifesaving resources poses another threat. That’s why our coalition continues to advocate for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that seeks to counter state-level abortion bans and restrictions.

Legislators in recent years have worked to protect the rights and health of Black birthing people and propose policy solutions for the crisis. Rep. Lauren Underwood’s 2021 Momnibus Acta package of legislation aimed to address the maternal health crisis from an inter-agency approach, is one of the current proposals to confront virtually every dimension of the issue. In 2019, Rep. Underwood founded the Black Maternal Health Caucus with Rep. Alma Adams. Before becoming the youngest Black woman to ever serve in Congress, Underwood worked as a registered nurse and previously worked at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Momnibus Act was reintroduced this year by Underwood and Sen. Cory Booker and aims to reduce health disparities in medicine — and also in the workforce and in our nation’s carceral systems.

A number of organizations, including some of The Leadership Conference’s coalition partners, are working to address and ameliorate the crisis. The National Partnership for Women & Families, for example, has worked on an array of maternal health equity initiatives — including recently releasing a roadmap dedicated to improving maternal health outcomes and compiling resources. Another is In Our Own Voice, an organization specifically dedicated to achieving reproductive justice for Black women and improving Black maternal health through policy solutions. Various other coalition partners have dedicated themselves to advancing a vision of economic justice that will lead to better health and economic outcomes, including advocating for passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit, and other policies designed to provide holistic support to families.

In addition, The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s data equity work helps to ensure that we are able to collect data disaggregated by race and ethnicity so that we can identify these and other inequities and work to remedy them.

As we remember Tori Bowie and honor her life on what would have been her 33rd birthday, we must continue to combat the Black maternal health crisis by protecting Black birthing people and creating policies that eliminate outdated medical misinformation and build safer, healthier, and more supportive environments for birthing people — especially those from historically vulnerable communities — to live and thrive.

This blog appears courtesy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights where the author, Alaina Ruffin, was a summer 2023 undergraduate intern.

Safeguard American Democracy: Oppose the American Confidence in Elections Act and Support the Freedom to Vote Act

Safeguard American Democracy: Oppose the American Confidence in Elections Act and Support the Freedom to Vote Act

Safeguard American Democracy: Oppose the American Confidence in Elections Act and Support the Freedom to Vote Act

Safeguard American Democracy:Oppose the American Confidence in Elections Act and Support the Freedom to Vote ActOur country is divided on how to best safeguard American Democracy and the freedom to vote. Some favor continued progress towards a more inclusive democracy with expanded voting protections that benefit all citizens of voting age. Such proponents are in conflict with others who prefer restricted voting laws that make it more difficult for voters to cast a ballot, and whose policies tend to benefit wealthy corporations and individuals. NETWORK Lobby’s Build Anew policy agenda guides our work to forge a multifaith, multi-racial democracy where we all thrive. Paramount to this transformative change is unfettered access to voting. We ask all justice-seekers to join our efforts to safeguard American Democracy and oppose H.R. 4563—the American Confidence in Elections Act and support the Freedom to Vote Act.

While we thank God that the Supreme Court’s holding in Allen v. Milligan protected voting in Alabama’s Black and Brown communities by striking down gerrymandered congressional districts – and the voting power of these communities across the nation, political extremism is still a major threat to our democracy. In 2023, legislators in at least 11 states passed 13 restrictive voting bills. These restrictive voting measures were the result of concerted efforts by dark money special interests and self-serving politicians. Money was funneled to influence policymakers’ decisions to alter voting laws to make it harder for communities of color to vote. Instead of ensuring fair and equal representation promised in our Constitution, Republicans in states across the country have drawn partisan gerrymandered district maps designed to keep political parties and dark money special interests in power.

The prophet Isaiah’s judgement of the rulers and leaders of Jerusalem during their time of seeming prosperity is especially poignant. “They say that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right; that black is white and white is black; bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Is. 5:20). Sacred reflection is prologue to the contradictory nature of two election related bills recently introduced in the House — the Republican-crafted American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act (H.R.4563) and the Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA) (H.R.11) — which has bipartisan backing.

The ACE Act (H.R.4563) would:

  • Limit the choices that voters have when registering to vote
  • Repeal President Biden’s Executive Order instructing federal agencies to encourage voter registration
  • Restrict the ability of voters to cast a ballot by mail
  • Create strict photo ID requirements
  • Reinforce partisan gerrymandering
  • Enhance the power of wealthy special interests by increasing contribution limits and maintaining the avenues for anonymous, or dark money, donations

The Act would also restrict private funding of the administration of elections, even as Congressional Republicans refuse to adequately fund the administration of federal elections. And, Washington, D.C. voters are singled out by the legislation as District voters would become guinea pigs for the states, with the establishment of a series of repressive restrictions, including dramatic reductions in drop box access for voters and onerous new voter ID and mail-in voting rules.

Conversely, FTVA (H.R.11), introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03) in the House on July 17, 2023, is a transformational pro-voter, anti-corruption bill that is complementary to the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Passage of this bill would be a vital step forward to live into Build Anew’s mission.

The FTVA (H.R.11) would protect the integrity of elections, simplify voter registration, and expand access to the polls. It would:

  • Protect local election officers and poll workers from harassment and intimidation
  • Limit gerrymandering
  • Shine light on “dark money” flooding into campaign advertising

Untraceable funds allow wealthy individuals and corporations to exert undue influence over the political process and erode the democratic ideal of equal representation. The FTVA (H.R.11) would not allow money to effectively drown out the voices of everyday citizens it would enhance the aspirational principle of “we the people” from the Preamble to our Constitution.

The Catholic faith requires that we on honor human dignity. The rise of dark money and undisclosed corporate donations, coupled with restrictive voting measures, casts a shadow on the integrity of our democratic process, and results in diminished dignity for those left out of the process. We are called to recognize and respect the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, no exceptions!

Voting is not only a civic duty but also a means of upholding the dignity of every person, and allowing them to have a voice in shaping their communities, and the larger society. We must actively working towards the elimination of discrimination, prejudice, and systemic racism in all its forms, especially in our elections. NETWORK strongly opposes the House Republican American Confidence in Elections Act The ACE Act, H.R.4563) and calls for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA H.R.11).