Why Are Black Women At Higher Risk for Complications in Pregnancy?

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Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) caused quite a stir earlier today when she referred to pregnant women as “birthing people” in her Congressional testimony on increased risk of complications in pregnancy for Black women. I address that in this post. But, Bush raises a valid point. An article from the American Heart Association from a couple of years back reports that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy than White women. Why is that?

There is no question that economics has a role to play in this. Black women are disproportionately more likely than White women to have children out of wedlock (though White women are catching up, and more than half of children born to all women under the age of thirty are born to single mothers). Single motherhood and poverty walk almost hand-in-hand, and girls who grow up in poverty are more likely to get pregnant outside of marriage, more likely to have poor health and less access to healthcare, and are less likely to have adequate, or any, prenatal care — all of this regardless of race.

But, Dr. Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA says the problem goes beyond poverty and that racism is part of the problem. “It’s basically a public health and human rights emergency because it’s been estimated that a significant portion of these deaths could be prevented.” Dr. Langer goes on to say, “Basically, black women are undervalued. They are not monitored as carefully as white women are. When they do present with symptoms, they are often dismissed.”

As a health care worker myself, I have seen plenty of times when complaints or symptoms were dismissed, though I have not attended to patterns in this practice. I have heard from women, mostly White because most of my co-workers and family members are White, who say that they do not feel that their concerns are always taken seriously by doctors. A social worker with whom I worked told me it took months for her doctors to arrive at a meaningful diagnosis to her complaints because, she felt, her complaints were simply not taken seriously. One nurse with whom I worked told me that, when she informed her doctor via small talk that she was a nurse, he refused to treat her pain assuming, because she was a nurse, that she was drug-seeking. Sure, the doctor may have been reacting negatively because she was a nurse, but most nurses are women, so which is it? Research shows that heart attack symptoms in women are not taken seriously. All of these are examples of healthcare obstacles for poor people and for women. Add to that the element of race, and it is a huge problem for poor, Black women.

But, not only for Black women who are poor. Serena Williams, who is definitely not poor, suffered a pulmonary embolism after giving birth to her child. Valuable time was lost in obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment, however, because her concerns were initially dismissed by healthcare staff caring for her.

Dr. Allison Bryant Mantha, vice chair of quality, equity and safety in the obstetrics and gynecology department of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston says, “Racism affects so many things before the patient even gets to the clinical encounter. Both implicit bias and structural racism affect how women are cared for in the health care system.” A report published by the National Academy of Sciences, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,” found that bias and stereotyping of Blacks and other minorities can negatively impact the quality of healthcare they receive.

Rep. Bush shared her own stories of her two pregnancies that faced complications. Bush was a nurse at the time. The doctor with her first pregnancy did not listen to her when she complained of pain and she told her she was fine and to go home. A Week later her child was born at 23 weeks. She was told the child had no chance to live, but a doctor who cared took it upon herself to do what needed to be done to save her child’s life. He is now 21 years old. The doctor with her second pregnancy told her that she was going to abort and there was nothing he could do. Her sister, who was with her, actually threw a chair down the hall of the doctor’s office in a desperate attempt to get someone’s attention. She did, and they called another doctor who treated her. Her daughter is now 20 years old.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced the MOMMIES Act to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women. However, one of the provisions of the bill says, “No restriction on types of medical assistance available to low-income pregnant women.” Unfortunately, Democrats being Democrats, this is likely to be interpreted as paying for abortions, since Democrats think of abortion as “medical assistance.” Maybe I am wrong. I hope so. But, if not, this will have to be dealt with. Unfortunately, liberal politicians are wont to take a perfectly good bill to provide perfectly good services to people and ruin it because they are consumed by the culture of death. Bush, Pressley and Booker are all fierce supporters of abortion, regardless of how contrary that is to their public stance here in support of saving the lives of women and babies, and despite the fact that Black women abort their babies at almost four times the rate of White women. That’s a lot of Black babies dying at the hands of the abortion industry. Also, their “woke” language of referring to mothers as “birthing people” undercuts their initiative because it distracts from the very legitimate concern that Black women, and poor women in general, are at increased risk of death in pregnancy, and so are their young babies. They risk losing support for a good cause because of their grip on abortion and gender ideology.

Perhaps it would be helpful to tell them so.

Here is the contact info for Rep. Cori Bush.

Here is the contact info for Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

Here is the contact info for Sen. Cory Booker.

Contact them and congratulate them on their support for assisting low-income pregnant women (and be sure to use the word women). But, ask them why their support for saving the lives of babies, even Black babies, does not extend to those in the womb. Let them know, too, that their support for abortion and their insistence on using gender neutral language when referring to mothers only distracts and alienates people from a genuinely noble cause. Maybe we can find a way to help mothers and keep our sanity at the same time.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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