Ending Racial Disparities Within Maternal Healthcare

Racial disparities in regards to maternal healthcare within Illinois is, unfortunately, not new news. Just this past November, March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that aims to aid in the health of mothers and babies, gave the state a D+ grade for the amount of preterm births within Chicago and Illinois (to see Illinois Right to Life’s response to this grade, click here). One notable statistic in the report shows that the percent of African American women in Illinois who experienced preterm births was 52 percent higher than all other women in the state.

Unfortunately, the preterm birth rate of African American women in comparison to other races is not the only racial disparity in women’s healthcare in Illinois. Maternal mortality amongst black mothers is also much higher than any other race! According to the Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report of 2018, provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, black mothers experience 109 pregnancy associated deaths per 100,000 live births. That is 71 more deaths than white mothers, 77 more deaths than Hispanic mothers, and 72 more deaths than mothers of other races. This difference is heartbreaking and there is no reason that can justify these statistics.

While bringing to light the fact that there is a racial disparity within the number of deaths, the Illinois Department of Public Health acknowledged that prejudice has played a part in the unnecessary deaths of black mothers. In a section of the report, a real example case of woman who died postpartum highlights the dangers of racial prejudice. A woman named Jasmine, who had recently given birth, complained of severe leg and back pain. Unfortunately, after many hospital visits and incomplete examinations, Jasmine died of a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot. She died, leaving her 18-day-old baby motherless. In the report, the Illinois Department of Public Health states, “There was a lack of care coordination between facilities, and Jasmine’s pain was not taken seriously. Providers appear to have misinterpreted her pain as ‘drug-seeking’ behavior, showing how implicit bias or prejudice can affect the care a woman receives.” This statement, given by a government run organization, openly recognizes the reality and dangers of racial prejudice.

As a pro-life organization, Illinois Right to Life cares deeply for both the unborn and their mothers. We want to make sure women are supported beyond the birth of their child. That is why we would like to applaud Homeland Heart & Wellness Collective whose mission is to help black mothers maintain safe and healthy pregnancies, births, and beyond!

Homeland Heart & Wellness Collective is a nonprofit organization that trains black women to be doulas for black mothers. Run by Kristin Mejia-Greene, a trained doula, her workshops have been able to empower women and to defend them from any racial prejudices conducted by the hands of health care professionals. In an article written by Damon Mitchell a black woman named Nicole Ward, who lauds Homeland Heart & Wellness Collective, expressed the way in which she was neglected by healthcare professionals who allowed her to unknowingly miscarry her baby. She sought the opinions of several doctors and on her third visit was told, “‘Well, no matter how many hospitals you go to, you’re still going to have a miscarriage. Your baby’s dying.’” This was shocking news and as she experienced the difficult loss of her child, she was treated coldly by professional doctors. Ward reportedly, “views Mejia-Greene’s doula program as a way to prevent other women from having miscarriages.” Homeland Heart & Wellness Collective clearly advocates and serves as a respite for all black mothers who fear being neglected by the healthcare system due to their race.

There is much that the United States must do to put an end to the evils of racism and prejudice. However, there is no better time to start highlighting and solving these racial issues than now. As racial disparities flood the news, it is important to expose the inequality that results in the unfair deaths of unborn black children and their mothers. It is our job, as good citizens like the women involved in Homeland Heart & Wellness Collective, to recognize these statistical differences and use them to defend life for all humans, especially those who need our help the most.