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  • Kayla Arch

The Racial Disparities Against Black Babies and Mothers in Healthcare

Implicit biases and structural racism are two issues that negatively affect the Black community in the United States. However, an issue that continues to not be recognized enough is the daunting statistics regarding the mortality rates of black mothers and babies. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the United States has the highest maternal and infant mortality of any high developing country, with approximately 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. However, black women and babies are disproportionately dying compared to their white counterparts due to a variety of reasons, but unfortunately, many of these reasons are preventable. 

There is a long line of history and racism contributing to the overall health and wellness of black women, and these influences are not being considered when looking into the inconsistencies these women face when it comes to their reproductive health. Not only has the history of racism in the United States influenced the implicit biases of caregivers all over the country, but it directly results in the overall care that black patients and mothers receive. During the years of black enslavement, from 1619 to 1865, black women experienced legalized sexual and reproductive exploitation and violence and had no protection from these acts under the law because they were considered property. Then, during the Jim Crow Era, many laws were discriminatory against specifically black women and only protected white women. Today, women are still being affected and influenced by the impact of these laws, including the reasons for the healthcare one receives, exposure to environmental hazards, and economic deprivation

Now today, black women all over the country are reaping the consequences of structural racism and the implicit biases healthcare providers have because of the history and influences of the United States. Black mothers are 3-4 times more likely to die during childbirth in comparison to white mothers, and researchers believe that approximately 60% of these deaths are preventable ones. 

In an article written by Ericka Stallings, “The Article That Could Help Save Black Women's Lives,” she goes into depth about the negative experiences black women face when they are receiving healthcare. She explains how black women’s pain is not taken seriously enough, they care they obtain it of poor quality, and it results in dangerous outcomes. Black women are less likely to be prescribed painkillers by an ER physician, even when they are experiencing the same amount of pain as white patients.  

To properly attack this problem efficiently, we need to hold not only these healthcare providers accountable, but also policymakers. There is a long history in this nation that contributes to the biases of individuals in the African American community. The intersectionality of being black and a woman makes it much harder for these individuals to go through the healthcare system. This issue can no longer be swept under the rug and needs to be acknowledged to properly fix it and save the lives of thousands of women and their newborns. 


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