Skip to main content

Photobucket

Pregnancy can kill you - especially if you are a black woman in the US.

The PBS Newshour covered a recently released report which gives the details.
Report: African-American Women at Higher Risk for Maternal Death in Calif.

In California, African-American women are dying of pregnancy related-causes at rates seen in some developing countries, and at four times the rate of white women and other ethnic groups in the state.

A new report from the California Department of Public Health reveals the stark disparity: the mortality rate for black women was 46 deaths for every 100,000 live births from 2006 to 2008, while the rates for Asian, white and Hispanic women in the same period ranged from 9 to 13 deaths per 100,000 births.

"African-American people generally have worse health outcomes than Caucasian people...but not to this degree, not four-fold," said Conrad Chao, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, who worked on the report. "What surprised me when we got through the numbers was the magnitude of the disparity."

A 2007 Centers for Disease Control national breakdown showed a similar -- but smaller-- race gap, with black women at about three times the risk for maternal death as white women. Taken as a community, African-American women in California have a maternal mortality risk comparable to rates in Kazakhstan and Syria, according to World Health Organization data.

I was not surprised by these data.  

I was all too familiar with them, since as a graduate student I worked on a study of infant mortality and pre-term delivery in Harlem conducted by medical anthropologist Dr. Leith Mullings (wife of the recently deceased Manning Marable) in Central Harlem which began in 1993:

Resistance and Resilience: The Sojourner Syndrome and the Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem and Stress and Resilience: The Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem

Leith and her co-author Alika Wali pointed to racism as a co-factor/stressor which is difficult to measure.

Recently several blogs in the Afro-sphere have covered this aspect - reported in the Seattle Times:

Black women remain significantly more likely to lose a baby in the first year of life than white women across education, wealth and other factors. And the alarming fact remains a  medical mystery. The Seattle Times reports  the following staggering statistics:

*A college-educated black woman in the United States is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with only a high school education..

*A black woman who does not smoke has worse birth outcomes than a white woman who smokes.

*An African-American woman who starts prenatal care in her first trimester is more likely to lose her baby than a white woman with late or no prenatal care.

*As infant mortality declines, the gap between black and white women does not.

“Race in America puts your pregnancy at risk,” says Ilise Zimmerman, CEO of the Northern New Jersey Maternal-Child Health Consortium, according to the Times. “It’s not about poverty. It’s not about teenage pregnancy. It’s not about use of drugs. If you self-identify as black, there’s a greater chance your baby will be born before full term and be too small.”

After a discussion in this CA report detailing a long list of possible co-factors, they were still unable to put a finger on one root cause of these appalling statistics.

Mother Jones had this to say:

The authors of the report are still not sure exactly why African-American women are four times as likely to die than women of other races, but they suspect a combination of higher obesity rates, lower use of prenatal health care, less adequate care, and various risk factors as a result of lower socioeconomic status (e.g. higher stress). But the authors still seemed to be scratching their heads about how one ethnic group could make up only 6% of all California births, but 22% of maternal deaths.

Another anomaly: although Hispanics overall account for 51% of all California births, foreign-born Hispanics had much better health than those born in the US. "Immigrant Hispanics tend to have better health than the average American population, in spite of what their aggregate socioeconomic indicators would predict," write the study's authors. It could be because foreign-born women give birth at younger ages, when they are less likely to encounter complications. Or it could simply be that the American lifestyle, and health care system, is so unhealthy that it's actually a liability. The high Cesarean rate, which accounts for a third of all births, in particular, is directly related to maternal mortality. And then there's the question of care, and of cost. Only 22% of people with health insurance in California (the report says) have coverage for maternity services: In 2004, 82% of them did. For those who can't get, or can't afford, private health insurance, there's Medi-Cal, which paid for 47% of all prenatal and pregnancy-related costs in 2008. An especially interesting tidbit found in the report is that 7% of women in Medi-Cal's maternity program actually HAVE private insurance: their insurance just doesn't cover maternal services.

There's something seriously wrong when your health insurer doesn't cover your prenatal care. Maybe this could be a new torch for the pro-life movement, or a larger one for the pro-choicers. It seems like a perfect platform for a "family values" Republican, no?

Photobucket

Though these data, I am reporting on today are focused on African American women, there are many health care disparities that affect other women of color.  What is important for us, as activists to recognize as we address health care that these data are not simply a product of social class.  

So AA sisters have a much higher chance to die while giving birth, and we have a higher chance of losing the baby. And now Republican Teahadists would love to cut us out of the access to family planning and the insufficient pre-and post natal care we have, as they increase their racist attacks.  

The disparities in health care for black, latina, native american and asian women have now become part of a grassroots movement.  Women of color and their allies have been organizing under the banner of "Reproductive Justice"

Photobucket

Reproductive Justice is not simply a matter of abortion.

Proponents of the concept of reproductive justice aim to recognize that women's reproductive health is connected to and affected by conditions in their lives that are shaped by their socioeconomic status, human rights violations, race, sexuality, and nationality. Proponents argue that women cannot have full control over their reproductive lives, unless issues such as socioeconomic disadvantage, racial discrimination, inequalities in wealth and power, and differential access to resources and services are addressed. The grassroots organization Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice defines reproductive justice as follows: "We believe reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives."

According to SisterSong, reproductive justice has five primary characteristics:

    Defines the primary problem as Reproductive Oppression
    Uses an intersectional analysis
    Is based on worldview focused on human rights
    Links individuals to their communities
    Uses organizing and advocacy to work on institutional change

Reproductive justice will be achieved when Indigenous women and women of color have the power to:

    protect and advance our human rights;
    determine the number and spacing of our children;
    protect our bodily integrity;
    protect our right to parent our children;
    improve the quality of the environment in which we live,
    obtain the necessary social supports to live healthy lives in healthy families, and in safe and sustainable communities.

Reproductive Justice ensures that a  mother can have children, live through the delivery, or choose not to be pregnant.  Reproductive Justice ensures pre-and post natal care, child-care, healthy food and  environmentally safe shelter for families.

What can you do?

Support SisterSong and other organizations in the Reproductive Justice Movement.  

Thank you for reading.

Originally posted to Denise Oliver Velez on Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 01:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, LatinoKos, Abortion, Moose On The Loose, and Democrats.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Rebecca, Tookish, Grassroots Mom, Velocity, JekyllnHyde, fcvaguy, itsbenj, Odysseus, taylormattd, hester, slinkerwink, mimi, sara seattle, Shockwave, Nonpartisan, rhubarb, rubyr, dsb, xynz, elfling, emelyn, silence, cinnamon68, scribe, bronte17, missLotus, BlackSheep1, annrose, nyceve, jaysunb, shanikka, roses, peraspera, sberel, sngmama, mollyd, splashy, Cedwyn, high uintas, KathleenM1, aitchdee, Brit, wader, revsue, SneakySnu, Oke, Miss Jones, pat bunny, Tracker, ranger995, Virago, Lawrence, TiaRachel, kj in missouri, cosette, texasmom, Steven Payne, lcrp, riverlover, kismet, Nanette K, Exurban Mom, FlyingToaster, zerelda, ybruti, Curt Matlock, Kitsap River, parryander, lonespark, SadieB, Emmy, American in Kathmandu, sebastianguy99, bay of arizona, carlos the jackal, Julie Gulden, leolabeth, historys mysteries, Bluesee, marina, SisTwo, Jeffersonian Democrat, Unit Zero, blueyedace2, JanetT in MD, Chinton, PBen, willibro, frandor55, Laurence Lewis, boofdah, SheriffBart, Geekesque, Ginny in CO, Rogneid, Ekaterin, xanthippe2, begone, lcork, kovie, sideboth, Jennifer Clare, trashablanca, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Pinko Elephant, Kingsmeg, sherlyle, Clytemnestra, edwardssl, tobendaro, Themistoclea, tonyahky, mr crabby, Dvalkure, Im with Rosey, arlene, fou, luckydog, sailmaker, kck, Alexandra Lynch, megisi, HairyTrueMan, Pager, NearlyNormal, plf515, middleagedhousewife, MBNYC, justiceputnam, fiddlingnero, blueness, Statusquomustgo, Temmoku, Nulwee, Pandoras Box, nilajean, pat of butter in a sea of grits, sephius1, donnamarie, SharonColeman, gloriana, teachergonz, edsbrooklyn, FishOutofWater, DvCM, tbirchard, david mizner, Matt Z, terabytes, DWG, joedemocrat, bnasley, GMFORD, second gen, Patience is Not a Virtue, cyncynical, millwood, gchaucer2, OIL GUY, bluesweatergirl, chicago minx, JDWolverton, ChocolateChris, TheFatLadySings, OleHippieChick, mamamedusa, Tchrldy, Involuntary Exile, bythesea, blindyone, lineatus, pamelabrown, Cassandra Waites, bluesheep, TokenLiberal, mofembot, Seamus D, Drewid, kyril, CitizenJoe, aigeanta, BYw, nklein, magicsister, Diogenes2008, lissablack, jlms qkw, CA coastsider, Wordsinthewind, ZhenRen, LaFeminista, maggiejean, Fogiv, aufklaerer, snackdoodle, ALifeLessFrightening, be the change you seek, Partisan Progressive, Ohiodem1, m4gill4, jennylind, earicicle, DefendOurConstitution, virginwoolf, moonbatlulu, asym, COwoman, hyper, conlakappa, Kysen, RadioGirl, seeta08, nancat357, mahakali overdrive, schnecke21, Adept2u, Black Kos, rebel ga, citisven, Larsstephens, cassandraX, Amber6541, smileycreek, RhymesWithUrple, foufou, rb137, FogCityJohn, p gorden lippy, awesumtenor, Observerinvancouver, vixenflem, amk for obama, princss6, Rustbelt Dem, boriquasi, luvsathoroughbred, klompendanser, freeport beach PA, Radical def, leftist vegetarian patriot, ribletsonthepan, JoanMar, samanthab, ThisIsMyTime, Lrios, cai, addisnana, Kelvin Kean, mallyroyal, translatorpro, no way lack of brain, Onomastic, gobears2000, CornSyrupAwareness, PaDemTerry, Dretutz, hopeful human, Lost Left Coaster, on second thought, Dixiedemocrat, wildlife advocate, kirbybruno, BlueJessamine, andromeda, Jose Bidenio, soothsayer99, FarWestGirl, asterkitty, mawazo, boomerchick, zukesgirl64, thomask, smoothnmellow, hikerbiker, KVoimakas, tardis10, LSmith, MRA NY, jrexpat, rexymeteorite, corvaire, Keori, peregrine kate, mali muso, Imhotepsings, Strange New World, FrankAletha, Mets102, SoCalSal, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, zenox, Ezekial 23 20, canadian gal, googie, Lucy2009, ChiTownDenny, No one gets out alive, Dom9000, BlueDragon, AnnetteK, livingthedream, brown and blue all over, GenXangster, ridemybike, Liberal Granny, anodnhajo, Voiceless, stature, barefoot coyote, Aji, SouthernBelleNC49, Chrislove, Andito49, EclecticCrafter, Eric Nelson, whatwoudzooeysay, martinjedlicka, kait, peachcreek, Ana Thema, TBug, doroma, qannabbos, sexgenderbody, arpear, tytalus, Noddy, LoreleiHI, etherealfire, jeannew, FrY10cK, fritzi56, raina, Marjmar, TheSpinnyLiberal, Portlaw, left rev

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site