Planned Parenthood Stands With Black Women this Black Maternal Health Week — and Always
By Joy D. Calloway, Interim CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York
This week is Black Maternal Health Week! The Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) founded Black Maternal Health Week in 2018 to raise awareness of racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes and encourage community-driven solutions that focus on Black women and Black transgender and non-binary folks who are able to become pregnant.
We deserve freedom, justice, health, and safety.
Black women have historically been and continue to be the anchors of their families and communities. As mothers and caregivers, Black women embody the spirit of community care — using their own resources to strengthen and uplift their families and communities.
As we celebrate the critical roles of Black mothers, mother figures, parents, and caregivers, we must also highlight that the historic and enduring presence of systemic racism has serious consequences for future, expecting, and existing Black mothers and birthing people.
We’ve all heard these statistics. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. We know the numbers are even worse for Black mothers here in New York. I want to take this opportunity to address Black mothers and Black transgender and nonbinary parents in our PPGNY family — from our staff to our patients to our communities as this issue is not outside of us — many of us and our families are directly impacted by it. PPGNY must do everything in its power to help ensure that Black parents are safe and cared for.
As a Black mother, I know firsthand how critical this work is. In 1997, I gave birth to my daughter at 29 weeks gestation — two and a half months premature; she weighed 2 lbs., 2 oz., and spent two months in NICU. With all the right familial and community supports, “good” insurance, and prenatal care, both my life and that of my newborn were in peril for weeks. Thankfully, we are both well — but that is not always the case.
As Black women, we deserve to be seen, embraced, and supported during our pregnancies, birthing experience, postpartum period, and at all stages of our reproductive lives. We deserve access to the social, economic, and environmental resources necessary to build strong families and communities. It is absolutely horrific that Black women and birthing people have to worry about whether their health care providers will provide worse care to them or risk their health or life because of their race.
PPGNY is committed to:
- Following the leadership and expertise of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to advance education and advocacy related to the experiences of Black mothers and pregnant people. We are proud to be a sponsor of BMMA’s Black Maternal Health Week this year and are committed to uplifting their work this week — and throughout the year.
- Amplifying the voices of Black mothers, birthing people, and advocates for improved Black maternal health outcomes in our advocacy work, communications, and events.
- Supporting local and state legislation aimed at supporting Black maternal health. We will continue to push for state legislation to include doulas as medical service providers for Medicaid recipients, require health insurance policies to include coverage for doulas, support the community midwifery professional practice, and advance insurance coverage to one year postpartum.
- Fighting to end the racist Hyde Amendment. This racist and discriminatory policy blocks most people with Medicaid from using their health coverage to access safe, legal abortion. This limits many Black birthing people from deciding when and if they want children. Supporting Black mothers requires supporting their right and ability to make their own decisions about pregnancy and motherhood.
- Along with our Reproductive Justice partners and more than 100 other birth and social justice organizations, Planned Parenthood endorsed the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, previously championed in the Senate by Vice President Kamala Harris. The legislation was included in the Build Back Better package that Congress continues to consider.
As a provider of health care services and education, Planned Parenthood stands with Black women and birthing people. As health equity advocates, we are determined to improve Black maternal health and support research and policy efforts that contribute to healthier outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy. We will continue to work alongside our Reproductive Justice and birthing justice partners who are spearheading efforts to address Black maternal health inequities.