In The Loop: Birth Justice

"In the Loop" provides a brief overview of current issues, providing context and calls to action.

By Erin Brown

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Overview:  

In the United States, maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they’ve spiked 26.6 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to a 2016 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and in addition, Black women’s risk of maternal mortality has remained higher than white women’s risk for the past six decades. It is estimated that half of the maternal mortalities in the United States are preventable and half of the maternal injuries in the United States could be reduced or eliminated with better care.  

History: 

The health of birthing people has long been an intersectional issue, with large disparities in access to quality care based on race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual identity, age, marital status, and citizenship (to name a few). Birth justice incorporates a variety of issues such as forced sterilization, birth rape, unnecessary (or lack of) interventions, and death. As many birthing people are moving toward delivering at home or in birth centers or otherwise exploring options for pain management and seeking possibilities that feel empowering to them, these options are not accessible equally. Black birthing people, regardless of other variables, having the highest incidents of negative health outcomes.  

Current Events: 

Black maternal health took a national spotlight recently as professional tennis player Serena Williams shared her experience with hospital negligence after her C-section in the February 2018 editon of Vogue.  Senator Kamala Harris introduced the Maternal Mortality Bill, which is widely seen by birth justice advocates as a major move in reducing racial disparities in negative birth outcomes. Grassroots organizations across the country are working for boots-on-the-ground accessibility to doulas and other resources to promote positive outcomes for birthing people, as well as necessary policy change. 

Get Involved: 

-Contact your representative in Senate and urge them to support Senator Harris’s bill. 

-Pay attention to organizations you follow and support regarding pregnancy, birth, and parenting. If they are not culturally competent, diverse, or addressing these disparities, look elsewhere. There is no reason at this juncture to tolerate mediocre leadership. 

-Donate to Ancient Song Doula Services to support their work in providing accessible doula care, as well as educating doulas nationwide in culturally competent care. 

-Follow Black Mamas Matter for ongoing calls to action. 

-Share what you learn, and share the work of the people at the forefront of birth justice. Center the right leadership. 

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Erin Brown

is an author, doula, international speaker, and poet from Lawrence, Kansas. Her work focuses on women and autonomy. It includes themes of positive body image, eradicating rape culture, addressing white feminism, honoring the power of our voices, self-care over martyrdom, reproductive justice, intersectional thinking and inclusive leadership. With an activism history approaching two decades, the only thing she is sure of is how much more she has to learn.