Black Maternal Health
Black Maternal Health has been a low priority for a long time, and is an important part of the conversation when we discuss a family’s economic stability. Mothering Justice seeks to address two issues, Infant & Maternal Mortality and Maternal Incarceration, that deserve urgent attention and are often left out of the conversation.
Sadly, approximately 80 women die each year in Michigan due to pregnancy and Black women in Michigan die at a rate more than 4.5 times higher than Non-Hispanic White women (8.7 deaths compared to 39.6 deaths per 100,000 live births) and this rate is higher than the national average. Black infants are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants, a disparity greater than existed in 1850, 15 years before slavery ended, when most Black women were considered chattel. In one year, that racial gap adds up to more than 4,000 lost black babies.
Education and income offer little protection. This tragedy of black infant mortality is intimately intertwined with the crisis of death and near-death in Black mothers themselves. The treatment of incarcerated women’s reproduction is an indicator of how society values the human rights of its most vulnerable members. An estimated 1 in 25 female inmates in the United States is pregnant.
Despite the fact that children are born in prison, there is currently no national policy in the United States that says what should happen to these infants and their mothers. Legislatively in the state of Michigan and departmentally, within the Michigan Department of Corrections, there are no laws or policies that resolve issues around breastfeeding (the healthiest approach to nourishment), shackling during labor, and post-delivery mother/child bonding.