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Robin Boylorn on Black Maternal Mortality, Part 2

Kierra Wright

Alabama has some of the highest rates in the nation of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity which can endanger pregnant women. While pregnancy is often romanticized as a miracle, it is a medical condition, that when compounded by other health challenges can increase the likelihood of medical complications. For women who do not have access to quality health care, or whose health care providers are dismissive due to implicit biases and unconscious racism, this problem is even more pervasive.

In the last commentary, I discussed systemic racism and the myth of the strong black woman-- Today I want to shift to the need for resources and information about the dangers of pregnancy, and potential resolutions to a problem that is preventable through proper access to healthcare, reproductive justice, awareness, and advocacy. But more importantly, a reversal of societal racism.

Research has found that sixty percent of all pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with better health care, communication and support, as well as access to stable housing and transportation. What this means is that we have to pay attention to the ways racist and classist systems can lead to inadequate or insecure access to basic necessities like housing, food, and transportation.

Women are not always prepared, or informed about the risks associated with pregnancy, and they aren’t always aware of preexisting conditions that could jeopardize their health during and after a pregnancy. For black women, fibroids, endometriosis, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are more prevalent, leading to Black mothers dying more often. This is significant given the alarmingly high rates of black maternal mortality across the country, irrespective of age, educational level, and social class.

Black women must have access to contraception, counseling, and abortion. There also needs to be diversity training and administrative accountability around the ways race affects health care outcomes. Racial bias is not always conscious or intended, and white privilege is often invisible to those who benefit from it, but the consequences of institutionalized racism can be a death sentence.

Interventions are necessary, and while they include educating black women who are pregnant, or planning to get pregnant about the challenges of pregnancy, it must also allow for the inevitability that some risks cannot be averted, and black women are more at risk because they are black.

Policy-changes must account for the disproportionate ways black women are most vulnerable in this epidemic. This means that in addition to research, there has to be outreach and funding to support postpartum care, even for those who cannot afford it. Black women shouldn’t die because of their race, and they shouldn’t die because they were pregnant.

I’m Robin Boylorn. Until next time, keep it crunk!

Written by Robin Boylorn

Edited by Brittany Young


Brittany Young is Alabama Public Radio's Program Director and Content Manager. Brittany began her public radio journey in the spring of 2015 as a news intern for APR while in graduate school at The University of Alabama.
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