In honor of the inaugural Black Maternal Health Week started and led by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Dr. Aisha Wagner, Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement:
“As a pregnant woman of color and a Family Medicine physician who has the privilege of caring for many Black mothers and pregnant patients, I know how vital it is to fight to advance maternal health, rights, and justice for communities of color, specifically for Black women.
“The numbers give us just a glimpse of the unjustifiable disparities that exist: in the United States today, pregnancy-related deaths for Black women are three times more likely than for white women—one of the widest racial disparities across health care—and infant mortality for Black infants is twice as likely as for white infants.
I implore all health care providers to take a stand against these disparities by approaching the provision of care through a reproductive justice lens that recognizes the ways in which racism and structural barriers impact how Black women receive their health care.
“As advocates and health care providers work to close this gap, it’s critical to shed light on the reasons the gap exists to begin with: structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism. Like many aspects of American society, parts of the health care system are failing communities of color and poor communities. While health care technology and access have been improving, these improvements exist mainly for white patients which, in turn, widens the maternal health gap. From unconscious biases among health care providers to the health repercussions of living a lifetime experiencing structural and interpersonal racism, it is no surprise to me that we find ourselves in this unacceptable reality.
“I implore all health care providers to take a stand against these disparities by approaching the provision of care through a reproductive justice lens that recognizes the ways in which racism and structural barriers impact how Black women receive their health care. We must do better. We must talk openly about racism in health care. We must center our care in a way that respects the right of Black women to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.”