Elizabeth Warren Tackles Maternal Mortality With A Plan That Prioritizes Black Women’s Health

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Black women die giving birth at three times the rate of white women in the United States, according to numbers laid out by National Geographic. It's an alarming statistic, especially as the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. And now, one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates has a plan to do something about it. Elizabeth Warren's plan to reduce the Black maternal mortality rate could have a huge impact on the health and safety of Black women.

The plan, according to CNN, hinges on "bonus" funds that medical providers working to address the issue would receive once they actually achieve some improvements in terms of the maternal mortality rate among African American women.

"And if they don't, then they're going to have money taken away from them. I want to see the hospitals see it as their responsibility to address this problem head-on and make it a first priority," Warren said at the She the People event on Wednesday, according to a video she posted on Twitter. "The best way to do that is to use money to make it happen, because we gotta have change and we gotta have change now."

Monica Simpson, the co-founder and executive director of SisterSong, a collective dedicated to reproductive justice for women of color, tells Bustle that white supremacy is harder to identify "when it's insidiously woven into our health care system, alongside the notion that doctors and hospitals are supposed to save us."

"Black women need providers and researchers that care about health equity and treat Black bodies with respect, dignity, and compassion," she says. "Elected officials should do everything they can to ensure that we can get the full range of reproductive health care, including birth control, abortion, and maternal care."

About 700 women die every year in the United States from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, according to National Geographic. And among that group, Black women die at a rate three times higher than white women.

"The mistreatment of Black and Brown women around maternal health is the direct result of institutional and structural racism. We need bold solutions to the epidemic of maternal mortality in America," Warren tweeted on Wednesday.

Researchers have identified numerous factors that could help explain the disparity in maternal mortality rate between Black and white women, according to a study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education. One of the top causes the researchers determined, though, was the difference in “quality of prenatal delivery and postpartum care" that Black women received compared to white women.

"Advocates are forcing Black maternal mortality into the conversation. There are important ideas on the table," Warren tweeted. "Here's mine: Hit health care providers in their wallets. Make it unacceptable for providers to tolerate our high rates of moms dying—especially Black moms."

Many Black women report that their doctors and nurses were slow to believe them when they stated their health concerns, according to Harvard Public Health. This was even the case for tennis star, Serena Williams, according to Self.

"I’m able to afford this opportunity to speak up and say, 'No, I need help now!' and people will listen to me," Williams told Glamour. "But a lot of African Americans—and people in Africa, India, or Brazil, to name a few—don’t have that opportunity. It’s completely devastating."

Warren directly addressed this element of the issue when she introduced her plan.

The best studies that I’ve seen put it down to just one thing: prejudice,” Warren said, per HuffPost. “Doctors and nurses don’t hear African American women’s medical issues the same way as they hear the same things from white women.”

If Warren has the opportunity to put it in place, then perhaps she'll find out if the health care providers would be more open to hearing those issues when there's money to be made — and lost — from doing so.

This article was updated on April 25, 2019.