This week is the fourth annual Black Maternal Health Week, spearheaded by our partners at the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), a Black women-led organization that advocates for Black maternal health, rights, and justice. This year’s theme is “Claiming our Power, Resilience, and Liberation,” and against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, uplifting and empowering the voices of Black mothers is as important as ever to dismantling systemic injustice.
We have seen how Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and as women of color continue working in frontline essential positions to keep our country running, Black women in particular are bearing the brunt of this economic and health crisis. For Black mothers, who already experience a maternal mortality rate over three times that of white women and are more likely than white mothers to experience serious medical complications during pregnancy, solutions to this maternal health crisis are urgently needed.
These inequities for Black mothers persist regardless of income or education level, and a growing body of evidence demonstrates that systemic racism and racial discrimination are major contributing factors that cause poor health outcomes for Black mothers. Through our free legal helpline, we have heard numerous stories from Black pregnant workers in physically demanding, low wage jobs who have been denied reasonable accommodations to keep them safe, even amidst a pandemic that is having detrimental health consequences for pregnant women.
We recognize the multifaceted nature of maternal health disparity, and know that structural problems require structural change. We are committed to advancing policies like comprehensive paid family and medical leave, so Black mothers have the time they need to recover from childbirth and care for themselves and their loved ones, as well the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which, as Black Mamas Matter Alliance wrote in support of the PWFA last year, “will help remove one of the many barriers Black pregnant people face at work by ensuring they are afforded immediate relief under the law, and not thrown into financial dire straits for needing pregnancy accommodations.” We are also proud to support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which aims to comprehensively address maternal health factors at their sources.
This Black Maternal Health Week, we follow the lead of BMMA and other partners in dismantling systemic racism and amplifying the voices of Black mothers as they fight for liberation, justice and equity.