Racial Justice Is Reproductive Justice

Pictured above, Bruce Mcintyre and his son Elias celebrating their first Father’s Day. Mcintyre’s wife and Elias’s mom Amber Rose Isaac died from preventable complications related to her birth in NYC on April 21, 2020. Source Instagram.

In New York City, Black birthing people are up to 12 times more likely to die from birth-related causes than white birthing people. While the United States spends the most money of any developed nation on healthcare, it also happens to be one of only 13 countries where maternal mortality is on the rise. Birth is not becoming safer for anyone in the U.S., but it is especially dangerous for Black families and babies, who experience the direct effects of medical racism, and if they survive, live to suffer the effects of weathering and intergenerational trauma from existing in a country constantly assaulting their right to life.

As NYC birth workers, our wish is that every birthing person has a supportive birth team and empowered experience. We are waking up to our responsibility to do more, though, to fight the rising maternal mortality rates and racism Black birthing people face within our medical system.

The CDC reports that about 3 out of every 5 pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented. Experts agree those statistics are more likely to effect Black parents, Indigenous parents and other people of color who do not have access to high quality, culturally competent maternal care, and who may already have health issues due to effects of racism, poverty, living in a food desert or a highly polluted part of town (known as social determinants of health).

When Black families do seek health care at the hospital, they’re often exposed to racism at the hands of primarily white physicians. Black people are 13% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of U.S. physicians and 2% of U.S. midwives are Black. Research shows that those Black physicians are more likely to serve medically underserved areas, increase access to health care for Black patients, and even spend more time with Black patients than white physicians do.

To right the wrongs of our healthcare system, we need more Black doctors, midwives, nurses and doulas. At NYC Birth Village, our plan is to pay it forward to financially support Black midwives and doulas while doing our own work to dismantle systemic racism in our society at large, so that Black families can be safe in and out of the hospital.

Consider joining us in donating to both local and nation-wide organizations working to solve the maternal mortality crisis. This is where we will be focusing our fundraising efforts as an agency:

Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn based organization, aims to improve Black maternal mortality through community advocacy, reproductive/birth justice work and education. Their community based doulas offer free and low-cost doula services to people who may not otherwise be able to afford them.

The National Black Midwives Alliance works to increase the number of Black midwives working in the U.S., advocates for educational pathways for Black student midwives, supports legislation led by Black midwives, and raises money for scholarships for Black student midwives.

And the National Birth Equity Collaborative supports Black maternal and infant health through racial equity trainings, policy advocacy, research, and community engagement.

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