Preserving Lives, Demanding Change: A Black Midwife's Urgent Plea to End Maternal Mortality

Preserving Lives, Demanding Change: A Black Midwife's Urgent Plea to End Maternal Mortality

"Advocating for Change: A Black Midwife's Journey to Combat Maternal Mortality Disparities

My path into midwifery was carved through a decade of serving as a doula, where I bore witness to the stark lack of safety afforded to Black women and birthing individuals within institutional birthing spaces. Disturbed by the disregard, distrust, and racialized obstetric trauma perpetuated by these institutions, I embarked on a mission to be a voice for those feeling unheard, helpless, and violated.

Over the years, my commitment to this cause has deepened, fueled by the worsening outcomes for Black birthing individuals. Despite heightened public attention, the focus on viable solutions, namely community birth and Black midwives, remains elusive. The alarming black maternal mortality rate in the United States, where Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their White counterparts, underscores the profound racial disparities entrenched in our healthcare system. In Chicago, where I reside, this statistic is doubly staggering: Black women face a sixfold increase in the likelihood of dying from pregnancy-related causes.

The pursuit of birth equity, promising optimal conditions for birthing individuals, remains an unattained goal for Black women nationwide. The recent closure of the sole birth center in Illinois staffed by a Black midwife serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address this crisis. As we grapple with these challenges, a pressing question emerges: In a landscape bereft of accessible birth centers and Black midwives, how can we ensure essential care for Black women and birthing individuals across the nation?

The issue extends far beyond a single city. Each year, countless Black women, both in metropolitan hubs and rural areas, navigate the complexities of pregnancy while desperately seeking safe and equitable maternal health care. Shockingly, a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that the wealthiest Black woman in California faces a higher risk of maternal mortality than the least wealthy white woman. Despite the echoing discourse on "birth equity," the tangible implementation of these principles remains elusive, leaving us not progressing but regressing.

Since 2019, various regions in the United States have witnessed alarming declines in maternal health care options. As we confront this crisis head-on, one thing becomes abundantly clear: doctors must stop ignoring Black women. This issue transcends personal experiences, demanding a systemic shift to ensure the well-being of Black mothers and birthing individuals throughout the nation. The time for change is not only urgent but imperative for the realization of true birth equity."

"Championing Change: A Call to Address the Crisis in Maternal Health

The landscape of maternal health in the United States is facing a dire reckoning, marked by alarming reductions in hospital labor and delivery units and dwindling access to out-of-hospital midwifery care. These unsettling trends disproportionately affect Black and brown communities, underscoring the systemic discrimination ingrained in our healthcare system.

One glaring facet of this crisis is the severe shortage of Black midwives on a national scale. A disheartening 2021 report revealed that merely 7% of certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives identified as Black or African American. This deficiency is not just a statistic; it's an affront to the very fabric of the Black birthing community. Despite compelling evidence demonstrating the positive impact of Black midwives on maternal health outcomes and the quality of healthcare for people of color, systemic barriers persist.

The stark reality is that Black patients, particularly Black women and birthing individuals, are enduring exploitation, negligence, and systemic harm. This is not birth equity; it is a systemic disregard for Black lives. The urgency of this injustice demands our immediate attention and collective action.

In the face of this crisis, I, as a Black midwife, stand witness to countless stories of needless Black maternal and infant deaths. Fueled by personal experience, I am committed to rectifying this disparity through the initiation of the Chicago South Side Birth Center. As a nonprofit, community-focused birth center led by Black midwives, it aims to address inequities in birth outcomes by providing culturally centered midwifery care within the community, promoting wellness, and fostering abundance in whole health.

To amplify the impact of this critical systemic change, I am proud to announce a partnership with Chicago Beyond, an organization dedicated to holistic investments in education, safety, community development, and health. At the Clinton Global Initiative 2023 Meeting, Chicago Beyond unveiled a groundbreaking $2 million investment in the Black Maternal Health Fellows program. This initiative is poised to spearhead transformative change in maternal healthcare across America.

In this pivotal moment, Chicago Beyond actively seeks partners to join the program, collectively catalyzing a total of $5 million in funding for Black maternal health leaders over the next four years. Together, we can dismantle the barriers that perpetuate maternal health disparities, forging a path toward a future where every Black woman and birthing individual receives the care and dignity they rightfully deserve."

"Empowering Change: Transforming Black Maternal Health on Chicago's South Side

In unity, we embark on a transformative journey to reshape the narrative of Black maternal health and birth justice, initiating change from the core of Chicago's South Side. Our mission is clear: to combat the historical disinvestment in the well-being of Black families and community members through a groundbreaking initiative rooted in community-oriented solutions.

The Chicago South Side Birth Center, a beacon of hope, stands as a testament to our commitment. It is not merely a birth center; it is a catalyst for change, spearheading efforts to address disparities that have plagued Black maternal health for far too long. Your support, both in funding and activism, is pivotal in ensuring the sustained success of this initiative and others like it, led by Black voices in the realm of maternal health.

Acknowledging the systemic barriers that hinder equitable access to quality care, we advocate for legislative change. A crucial step involves championing a significant increase in Medicaid or state reimbursement specifically allocated for Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led birth centers. This legislative push is fundamental to dismantling the barriers that have perpetuated disparities, ensuring that every Black woman and birthing individual can access the care they rightfully deserve.

Now is the time for action, for demanding change, and for holding institutions accountable. We refuse to be neglected any longer. It is our collective duty to turn the rhetoric of birth equity into a tangible reality where every Black woman and birthing individual receives the care they need and deserve.

Jeanine Valrie Logan, a leader in residence at Chicago Beyond and a tireless birth-equity champion, stands at the forefront of this transformative movement. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts from Fisk University, a Master of Science in nursing from DePaul University, and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in global reproductive health from George Washington University, she exemplifies the leadership needed to drive this monumental change.

Join us in this collective endeavor, as we strive to create a future where the shadows of disparities are replaced by the radiant light of equitable and compassionate maternal care for all."

"As we embark on this journey to reshape the landscape of Black maternal health on Chicago's South Side, we stand united in our commitment to birth justice and equitable care. The Chicago South Side Birth Center symbolizes our collective effort to combat historical disinvestment and create a community-oriented haven for Black families. Yet, this initiative is not isolated – it's a call to action for sustained support, both in funding and activism, for Black-led maternal health organizations.

We recognize that legislative change is imperative. Advocating for a substantial increase in Medicaid or state reimbursement specifically designated for Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led birth centers is a critical step toward dismantling systemic barriers. This legislative push is essential to ensure that equitable access to quality care becomes a reality for every Black woman and birthing individual.

Now, more than ever, is the time for action, for demanding change, and for holding institutions accountable. The Chicago South Side Birth Center and similar initiatives are catalysts for transformative shifts in Black maternal health. We refuse to accept neglect any longer, and it is our collective duty to turn the rhetoric of birth equity into a tangible reality.

In closing, Jeanine Valrie Logan, a leader in residence at Chicago Beyond and a passionate birth-equity champion, exemplifies the dedication needed to drive this monumental change. With a rich educational background, she stands as a beacon of leadership, guiding us toward a future where disparities in maternal health are replaced by a radiant light of equitable and compassionate care for all.

Together, we propel this movement forward, creating a future where every Black woman and birthing individual not only receives the care they need and deserve but thrives within a system that respects and uplifts their voices. This is our commitment, our journey, and our shared vision for a more just and compassionate maternal health landscape."

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