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(Albany, NY) Advocates and lawmakers united to recognize Black Maternal Health Week to and called for action to combat this statewide health crisis. April is Maternal Health Month and today, April 17th marks the last day of Black Maternal Mortality Week, a week of awareness, activism and community building organized by Black Mamas Matter. This week asked us to wake up to a health crisis where Black woman are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth compared to white women.

“The healthcare disparities Black women face in childbirth make it nearly four times as likely that they will die having a baby than their white counterparts,” said Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx, 77th AD). “This is one of the most severe health care disparities facing New York’s women and today the Assembly is adding its voice to the national educational effort associated with Black Maternal Health Week by approving a resolution raising awareness of this serious public health issue.”

In addition to a New York State resolution honoring this historic week, Assemblymember Joyner also called for the establishment of a Maternal Mortality Review Board to develop strategies to reduce the unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality. The bill (A-10346) is a solid first step toward reducing risks for vulnerable New Yorkers.

”This is a powerful moment to uplift and address the maternal mortality rates in this state, especially among women of color,” said Robin Chappelle Golston, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.  "Women should have all the support they need to remain healthy and not fear that their concerns will be ignored during their pregnancies or after. New York state has the opportunity to be a national leader in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity.”

The danger is undisputable with Black women dying of pregnancy-related causes almost four times as often as white women in New York State and Black women make up 42% of maternal deaths, only 17.6% of live births. Many factors have been correlated to this disparity including poverty (67% of women who died of pregnancy-related causes in 2012-13 had Medicaid coverage), health care access, poor maternal health and racism. Increased risk for maternal mortality affects all women of color regardless of education or income status.

Entering the last weeks of the 2018 legislative session, advocates and lawmakers were vocal in their call to take action to improve New York State’s rate of maternal mortality:

Christa R Christakis, MPP, Executive Director American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), District II:

“ACOG District II commends the Assembly for raising awareness about racial disparities in maternal health through this resolution.  ACOG remains committed to working with the Legislature to prioritize safe motherhood and to ensure that no community suffers the loss of a mother due to a preventable, pregnancy-related death.  On behalf of women’s health care providers across New York State, we will continue to raise public awareness about the maternal health challenges black women face, and the need to establish a maternal mortality review board to inform quality improvement and identify actionable strategies for the prevention of maternal death.”

Dr. Patricia Burkhardt, Legislative Committee Chair, New York State Association of Licensed Midwives (NYSALM):

“The rate of maternal death for black women is not only a matter of health care, it is also a matter of social and racial justice.  Investigation into the causes and changes in the maternity care system are imperative to rectify this totally unacceptable reality.”

Rose Mitchell-Tenerowicz, BirthNet Board Member:

BirthNet strongly supports recognition of Black Maternal Health Week and appreciates Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner’s resolution in the New York State Assembly.  We are proud to lend our voice to the growing call for birth justice by supporting the Black Maternal Health Week Resolution. The maternal mortality rate and racial disparities in birth outcomes in this country are a national disgrace. BirthNet strongly urges the State of New York to both recognize Black Maternal Health Week and to drastically increase support for programs that will lead to improvements in care for black mothers.

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Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts is a non-profit, statewide organization dedicated to protecting and expanding access to a full range of reproductive health care services. It represents New York’s Planned Parenthood affiliates and works to protect and expand access to reproductive health care for all New Yorkers.