Spotlighting Racial Bias
08.14.14 - In LaKeisha’s hometown of
While post-cesarean complications are not uncommon, inadequate follow-up care meant that LaKeisha was neither treated for nor informed about the signs of infection. For countless women like her, racial and socio-economic disparities in health care quality and insurance access have made childbearing an increasingly dangerous proposition in this country.
“There were no calls from the doctor’s office to say, ‘How are you doing?’” recalls LaKeisha. “I sat with an infection for two weeks. I thought it was just the pain [from the cesarean]. . . . I remember feeling horrible.” The lingering infection traumatized LaKeisha both physically and emotionally, especially when her financial situation forced her to return to work earlier than planned.
LaKeisha is one of 25 women we spoke to
during the Center for Reproductive Rights’ joint effort with SisterSong Women
of Color Reproductive Justice Collective to gather firsthand accounts of
Southern Black women’s sexual and reproductive lives. The project documents the
experiences of women living in
This week, the Center and SisterSong
brought these findings before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during the committee’s periodic review of the
In addition to testifying, the Center submitted a shadow report intended to supplement the government’s account of actions taken to address the Committee’s concerns from their last review, in 2008.
“These reviews allow us to spotlight
issues of racial discrimination in the
“Most people in the
Kendra, another woman we spoke to
during the joint project with SisterSong, is from
No surprise then that Kendra, who became pregnant in the 12th grade after receiving virtually no sex education, says of her community, “We really don't have a lot of good experiences when it comes to childbirth.”
During this week’s testimony, the Center and SisterSong are urging the CERD to question the U.S. government about how it is addressing racial disparities in maternal mortality, especially in the South, where states have largely rejected Medicaid expansion yet are comprised of a disproportionate number of people of color who are unable to afford private insurance.
Additionally, the Center hopes the CERD
will press the
“The 136% rise in maternal deaths in
the U.S. over the past 20 years and the dramatic increase in racial disparities
is a human rights crisis, brought on to large degree by gender and racial
discrimination in the health care system,” notes Anderson. “Our hope is that
the Committee will identify how the
Taking the stories and statistics of this developing crisis to the international stage helps ensure that the distressing experiences of women like Kendra and LeKeisha cannot be dismissed. As with governments across the world, we aim to hold the U.S. responsible for addressing the complex of factors—including race, gender, and poverty—that continue to imperil the lives of millions of already marginalized women.