There aren’t enough alarm bells in the world to ring when it comes to the state of Black maternal health in the United States. And, a report from the Centers for Disease Control confirms some of the biggest fears about Black maternal health, things aren’t getting better. They’re getting much, much worse.
According to the report, from 2018 to 2021, the Black maternal mortality nearly doubled.
A deeper dive into the data reveals that in 2021, the rate of Black women during pregnancy or childbirth hit nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Those numbers don’t include people who were murdered, which is one of the leading causes of death for pregnant people.
It’s impossible to discount the impact of the pandemic when we’re talking about these new numbers. Not only was the virus itself a significant risk factor, but isolation and decreased access to health care also negatively impacted pregnant people. Add in existing health care inequities for Black women, food and housing insecurity and you’ve got a crisis on steroids.
But as the data shows, the rate of Black maternal mortality was increasing (although less dramatically) even before the pandemic.
Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, Black pregnant people are at even greater risk as doctors grapple with how to treat their pregnant patients suffering life-threatening complications without running afoul of anti-abortion laws.
Dr. DeShawn Taylor, an OBGYN who spoke to the Root in August, warned about the risk to Black pregnant patients already grappling with systemic health inequities.
“When we were saying that abortion bans harm all pregnant people, it wasn’t just a slogan,” Taylor said. “We’re starting to see it playing out across the country now… it’s putting people’s health at risk.”
While people have at least started paying lip service to Black maternal health, it’s clear that we’re very far from ending this crisis.