On Tuesday (April 13), the White House issued the first-ever presidential proclamation to commemorate Black Maternal Health Week. The move comes as part of the Biden administration’s push to address racial inequity in childbirth and pregnancy across the US.
“Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis,” Vice President Kamala Harris said during a panel event on Black maternal health.
“We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequalities and implicit bias.” Domestic Policy Director Susan Rice was also in attendance, according to The New York Times.
In the United States, Black people who give birth are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white people who give birth.
The CDC approximates that 700 women die while giving birth, the most of any developed nation in the world.
Black infants also face a greater threat of death compared to white babies. According to data from the CDC, Black babies are more than twice as likely to die than white babies. One study found that Black babies have a greater chance of survival if the doctor that's delivering them is also Black.
Some advocates, like Oakland-based midwife Kiki Jordan, have opened birthing centers and other services to help Black people deliver their babies safely. Kimberly Seals Allers launched an app for Black mothers to rate and review doctors and medical facilities so that they can make informed decisions about where they go to receive care.
From the White House, additional programs are being launched to address Black maternal health in addition to the presidential proclamation. Under the American Rescue Plan, a fund of $30 million was set aside to train healthcare professionals on implicit bias.
There’s also a provision in the law to increase postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a whole year. Illinois became the first state to take advantage of the expanded coverage on Monday (April 12).
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