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Adams, Harris Introduce Legislation to Recognize First Black Maternal Health Week

Apr 11, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, during National Minority Health Month, Congresswoman Alma S. Adams (NC-12) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced legislation recognizing the inaugural Black Maternal Health Week. The week, April 11th- 17th, aims to raise awareness about the Black maternal health crisis, and bring Black women, policy-makers, clinicians, and other health-care stakeholders to the table for solutions.

“Senator Harris and I introduced this resolution to raise awareness about the systemic racism and inequality that has resulted in Black women losing their lives in record numbers during childbirth,” said Congresswoman Adams. “This epidemic has reached crisis levels and continues to deprive communities of mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and leaders. This legislation is a first step toward creating substantive change to a system that is failing Black women.”

“The maternal mortality rate of Black women is a public health crisis that must be addressed,” said Senator Harris. “We must recognize that Black mothers need more resources and support to ensure their lives are not cut short, and they be able to raise their children to fulfill their potential. The designation of Black Maternal Health week is a step toward the recognition that more must be done to reduce the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women.”

Congresswoman Adams and Senator Harris worked closely with Black Mama’s Matter Alliance, a Black women-led, cross-sectorial alliance, to establish this annual week of awareness.

“We believe that every woman needs access to quality and affordable health care to ensure safe pregnancies and births for all women in the U.S., especially Black women,” said Elizabeth Dawes Gay, a member of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance Steering Committee. “However, health equity for Black women can only happen if we recognize and address the systemic racism that contributes to poor maternal health, ensure that Black women are at the center of these conversations, and enact real policy change.”

“Systemic racism and inequality have resulted in black women having pregnancy-related death rates that far exceed the national average for far too long,” said Jamila Taylor, senior fellow at the Center for America Progress. “Black Maternal Health Week represents an opportunity to shine a light on this injustice and educate lawmakers about the necessary policy and program changes we must make to ensure the health of all black mothers and women.”

“BWHI is incredibly proud to support the Black Maternal Health Week Resolution which will institute the week founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. This resolution ensures that Black women’s voices are amplified and heard regarding the maternal health crisis we are facing,” says president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative, Linda Goler Blount. “It is imperative that Congress invest in the best strategies and policies to accomplish our goal of improving the preconceptions of Black women and our maternal health outcomes, and ultimately preventing the needless deaths of thousands of pregnant Black women. Together we can lead the effort to solve the most pressing health issues that affect Black women in the U.S.”

Congresswoman Adams, Senator Harris, Black Mama’s Matter chose to raise awareness during National Minority Health Month because the numbers still show a huge disparity in healthcare for Black mothers. 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. According to the CDC, Black mothers in the U.S. die at a staggering three to four times the rate of white mothers. Black women are also twice as likely to suffer from severe maternal morbidity than white mothers.