In recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, Congresswoman Cori Bush, who represents Missouri's first congressional district, opened up about her own traumatic birth experience on Twitter. Recounting how doctors dismissing her pregnancy pains resulted in her son being born four months premature, she pointed out how urgent this crisis remains 21 years later.
It’s Black Maternal Health Week, so I want to share my story.— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) April 16, 2021
When I was 5 months pregnant with my first child, I was in so much pain. But my doctors refused to believe me. I ended up going into labor.
My son spent the first days of his life on a ventilator, in an incubator, fighting for his life. He just celebrated his 21st birthday, but so many Black children, so many Black mothers, haven’t survived.— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) April 16, 2021
This is an urgent crisis. It has been an urgent crisis. And it’s a crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened. Protect Black mothers. Protect Black babies. Protect Black maternal and infant health.— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@RepCori) April 16, 2021
"This is an urgent crisis. It has been an urgent crisis."
On April 13, the White House announced its first-ever presidential proclamation recognizing Black Maternal Health Week. "Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis," Vice President Kamala Harris said at a Tuesday roundtable event. "We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequities and implicit bias."
The White House's proclamation cites the glaring statistics that put Black mothers in the United States at a higher risk for pregnancy-related deaths. "In the United States of America, a person's race should never determine their health outcomes, and pregnancy and childbirth should be safe for all," the proclamation reads. "However, for far too many Black women, safety and equity have been tragically denied. America's maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the developed world, and they are especially high among Black mothers, who die from complications related to pregnancy at roughly two to three times the rate of white, Hispanic, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women — regardless of their income or education levels."
As a senator, Harris has fought to improve maternal healthcare for Black women, an issue she continues to be at the forefront of in the White House. "Ensuring that all women have equitable access to health care before, during, and after pregnancy is essential," the proclamation said. "The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing these unacceptable disparities, and to building a health care system that delivers equity and dignity to Black, Indigenous, and other women and girls of color."
The statement illustrates how the Biden-Harris administration plans to address this nationwide crisis. "Addressing systemic barriers across the board will improve outcomes for Black mothers and their families, and make our entire country stronger, healthier, and more prosperous," it read. "At the same time, the United States must also grow and diversify the perinatal workforce, improve how we collect data to better understand the causes of maternal death and complications from birth, and invest in community-based organizations to help reduce the glaring racial and ethnic disparities that persist in our health care system."
For more information on how the Biden-Harris administration plans to specifically battle this crisis, check out this fact sheet that was released by the White House on April 13.