COVID-19 Further Threatens Maternal Health Among Black Women
Washington, D.C. — This Black Maternal Health Week — an initiative spearheaded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) — Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) joins patients, advocates, and providers to call for reform to improve maternal health care for Black women. Along with 90 other partners and organizations, PPFA endorses the The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, which was introduced last month by U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Alma Adams (D-NC), U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. The bill addresses the racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes among Black women in America, including higher rates of death and severe morbidity.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. These outcomes are the result of bias of medical providers, structural racism, and economic inequality — leading to limited access to health care and a heightened risk of health complications. And recent data shows that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to medical racism and structural barriers to testing and receiving care.
Congress must act now and sign the Momnibus Act so that research, policies, resources, and funds are allocated to combat the inequities in maternal health.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“For Black women, becoming a mother shouldn’t be a life or death decision. We need maternal health care that is compassionate, comprehensive, and unbiased — and we need policies that recognize the urgency to save Black women’s lives. The COVID-19 pandemic and maternal health crisis have shown us how deadly structural racism is to our health. Planned Parenthood is committed to collaborating with organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance that center Black mothers in this maternal health crisis. It’s time for policymakers to stand with, listen to, and trust Black women, and sign the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020.”
While there is currently limited data and research on the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and infants, there are clear racial disparities in testing, treatment, and mortality rates among Black people who have been infected by the new coronavirus. The COVID-19 crisis makes the problems associated with maternal health even more acute, with social distancing guidance that keeps loved ones and doulas from the delivery room, reducing their ability to advocate for those in labor — and environmental factors that make pre- and postnatal care less feasible. Health equity will not be achieved without addressing racial equity, and addressing implicit bias in health care delivery is a top priority for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood health center providers and staff undergo training to understand and eliminate provider bias, racial microaggressions, and stereotypes.
Many Planned Parenthood health centers serve pregnant patients with screenings for diabetes, depression, substance abuse, and environmental and teratogenic exposures, as well as offering obesity management, smoking cessation support, vaccinations (including flu), and preconception genetic screening. Some Planned Parenthood health centers offer care for patients experiencing miscarriages and primary care and behavioral health.
Planned Parenthood advocates for Black mothers and maternal health, and the improved health outcomes for Black women and communities. We endorse legislation that improves maternal health care, including the The Healthy MOMMIES Act and The Rural MOMS Act. The Momnibus bill would help ensure pregnancy and birth experiences are not contingent on race and that Black women have the freedom to be pregnant without added fear. It allocates the resources, investment, and support that would allow Black mothers to thrive.
BMMA is leading the 3rd Annual #BlackMaternalHealthWeek from April 11-17. Sign up for BMMA’s e-newsletter and stay up-to-date on ways that you can mobilize to support Black Mamas during #BMHW20 http://bit.ly/BMHW19.