Congresswomen Launch Black Maternal Health Caucus

Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) and Alma Adams (D-N.C.) announced the creation of a Black Maternal Health Caucus, which will help raise awareness and prioritize Black maternal health in Congress. “We have a Black maternal health crisis in this country. We need to ensure equal access to pre and post natal care #ForThePeople,” Adams tweeted on Saturday. The representatives launched the Black Maternal Health Caucus on Tuesday.

On Monday, Underwood tweeted that the maternal death rate is nearly four times higher for Black women than white women, even when adjusted for education and income.

“The statistics around Black maternal health are horrifying, and they haven’t improved in 30 years as maternal health outcomes overall have worsened. But this issue extends beyond statistics for too many women and families, it’s their reality,” Underwood said in a statement to The North Star. “This issue demands unique Congressional attention and I’m so proud to lead this effort with Congresswoman Adams to elevate Black maternal health as a national priority and explore and advocate for effective, evidence-based, culturally-competent policies, and best practices. The status quo is intolerable, we must come together to reverse current trends and achieve optimal birth outcomes for all families.”

Adams tweeted that she was “thrilled” to be alongside her colleagues to introduce the caucus on April 9. “Racial disparities in maternal health have not improved in three decades. Regardless of educational attainment and income, Black women and their children are at risk,” said Adams in a statement to The North Star. “As a Black mother and grandmother, I’m proud to launch the Black Maternal Health Caucus to ensure that Black women and infants have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said that he was proud to stand with Adams and Underwood to launch the caucus. He added that government officials need “to ensure that such disparities in maternal health are eliminated.”

“In America today, African American women are nearly four times more likely than white women — and more than twice as likely as women of other races — to die from preventable, pregnancy-related complications. We cannot and must not accept this,” Hoyer said in a press release on Tuesday. More than 50 Democratic representatives, including Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), have become members of the caucus, The Hill reported.

“The US has the worst rates of maternal death than any other developed country. For Black women, it's even worse,” Clyburn tweeted. “That's why I'm proud to be a member of the new Black Maternal Health Caucus so we can work to find solutions to this important issue.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised Adams and Underwood for creating the caucus, so Black women can have “access to the care they need to grow and thrive.” “Across the country, maternal health care inequities continue to exact a devastating toll on women of color and their families,” Pelosi said in a statement to The North Star. “The entire Caucus and Congress salute Congresswoman Alma Adams and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood for their tireless, solutions-focused leadership in creating the Black Maternal Healthcare Caucus to advance life-saving progress for millions of Black families from family planning through infancy and beyond.” Pelosi added that the coalition will help Democrats right injustices faced by Black women, and ensure “all American mothers and their children have access to the care they need to grow and thrive.”

US maternal mortality rates have increased over the past three decades, The Washington Post reported. The United Health Foundation found that from 2011 to 2015, the US maternal mortality rate was at 20.7 per 100,000 live births. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that between 2011 and 2014, Black women accounted for 40 deaths per 100,000 live births, while white women represented 12.4 deaths per 100,000 live births.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.