(MEDIA ADVISORY) – The Center for Reproductive Rights today filed an amicus brief in a federal appeals court on behalf of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and a coalition of reproductive justice groups who argue that Texas’ efforts to deny access to Planned Parenthood’s services for Medicaid patients will disproportionately harm Black women’s maternal health.
In a “friend of the court” brief filed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Alianza Black Mamas Matter and its co-signers outline how a Texas measure to deny Medicaid coverage for services provided by Planned Parenthood would exacerbate already stark racial disparities in women’s ability to access maternal and reproductive health care in the state.
This would worsen an already dire situation in Texas, where lawmakers hostile to women’s rights have spent years dismantling access to essential family planning services while passing increasingly restrictive laws designed to shut down women’s health care providers. Meanwhile, maternal mortality in the state is rising and ranks worse than any nation in the industrialized world.
Black women are at the center of the maternal mortality crisis in Texas and across the United States, where a history of denying Black women the resources and opportunities that support healthy pregnancies has resulted in a maternal mortality rate four times higher than among white women.
The brief submitted today outlines the crucial role Planned Parenthood plays in creating healthy outcomes for low-income women and women of color, and how denying Medicaid patients access to these services will only increase the extreme gaps in care that contribute to of Texas’ maternal health crisis.
The brief was filed on behalf of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the Afiya Center, Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Sistersong: The National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and Women With a Vision. The brief was filed by Hillary Schneller and Pilar Herrero of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Caroline K. Simons and Excylyn J. Hardin-Smith of Fish &, Richardson P.C., who provided pro bono counsel to the Center for Reproductive Rights on this matter.
In 2014, The Center for Reproductive Rights and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective began a partnership to raise awareness about human rights and racial disparities in U.S. maternal health. In June 2015, the organizations began convening leaders on Black maternal health. These events facilitated the development of new advocacy tools, and laid the groundwork for the launch of an independent Black Mamas Matter Alliance in 2017. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance is a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance that works to improve Black maternal health outcomes through advocacy, research, and culture shift activities. The alliance collaborates with individuals and organizations that share its vision for reproductive justice and maternal health equity. The Alliance is anchored by SisterSong and maintains a strategic partnership with the Center.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventive Health Services, et al. v. Smith, et al. challenges Texas’s most recent attempt to “defund” Planned Parenthood by denying Medicaid patients the right to their preferred health care provider if that provider is Planned Parenthood. In February 2017, a federal district court in Texas blocked the State from implementing the measure, which would have denied nearly 11,000 Texas Medicaid patients access to health care services at Planned Parenthood. The case is now on appeal before the Fifth Circuit.