Today, President Joe Biden took a momentous step and brought national awareness to the U.S. maternal health crisis disproportionately impacting Black mothers by signing a proclamation recognizing April 11 through April 17, 2021 as Black Maternal Health Week. The proclamation recognizes that structural racism is the root cause of the problem, that there is a need to prioritize community-led solutions, and that there must be a commitment to building a world where Black people may birth and live with dignity.
The proclamation was signed moments before Vice President Kamala Harris, a maternal health champion during her time in the U.S. Senate and now, in the White House, hosted a roundtable discussion on maternal health with Black women. Ambassador Susan Rice, Director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council and maternal health advocate, joined her in facilitating this discussion. The conversation highlighted the experiences of Black women, who shared their stories of pregnancy complications and losses, their struggles with birthing safely, and their experiences getting follow-up care in the postpartum period. Many of the women also shared their work in advocacy and research, highlighting the disparities that Black women face in accessing and receiving safe, respectful maternal health care.
Black Maternal Health Week was started in 2018 by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance– a national network of maternal health, human rights, and reproductive justice leaders and a longstanding partner of the Center for Reproductive Rights. This week, the fourth annual congressional Black Maternal Health Week Resolution, which recognizes the need to improve Black maternal health outcomes, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate by Representative Alma Adams, Representative Lauren Underwood, and Senator Cory Booker with over 80 cosponsors.
We commend the Black Mamas Matter Alliance on another successful Black Maternal Health Week, and we applaud the Biden-Harris Administration’s unwavering commitment to ending racial disparities in U.S. maternal health care. The Center for Reproductive Rights stands ready to support the Administration and Congress in its continued efforts to achieve birth equity for all mothers.
We encourage the passage of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a package of 12 bills to advance access to safe and respectful maternal health care, mandatory postpartum coverage extension to 12 months, and insurance coverage of doula services, all of which will help improve maternal health outcomes.