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In 2020, Black womxn* are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts. To many, this statistic is shocking. To decide to have a baby could mean a death sentence.

Reproductive justice, women’s rights, and LGBTQIA+ movements have occurred side by side since their inception, and yet their movements rarely intersect to include those pushed to the margins. In conversations about reproductive justice, rarely do conversations about black womxn penetrate the public media stratosphere. And, as black womxn continue to be pushed into the margins, so does their access to support. These statistics exist because of implicit bias, racism, and years of medical beliefs that black womxn are unworthy of proper care and guidance throughout their birth process.

Doulas are critical to this process – they don’t just provide support the day of the birth, but everywhere in between. They draft plans for labor, build support teams, navigate conversations on the right to keep or end a pregnancy, and strip away historically inaccurate beliefs of pregnancy and labor. With doula care and support, black birthing individuals are more likely to see the postpartum period and begin a beautiful journey after pregnancy. The role of doulas is beyond helping pregnant people prepare for what is to come. Doulas have also historically provided advocacy in reproductive justice issues, standing at the front lines of protests, drafting legislation, and speaking with representatives.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial that organizations like Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) stand with doulas and that doulas continue to be a part of the support team for pregnant individuals. PPIL stands with doulas by advocating for legislation that protects doulas' presence in the communities that need them most. Regardless of race, it is critical, but even more critical for black womxn. Having a doula be a part of the experience could mean the difference between life and death for most pregnant people.

Doulas play an important role in the black reproductive health framework. Learn more about how the reproductive rights and freedom movements intersect with Black maternal health.

*womxn - an alternative term for the English language word 'women' that explicitly includes transgender folk as well.

Dannie Ransom is a grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood of Illinois

Tags: pre-pregnancy health, planning a pregnancy, womxn, labour, Black community, doula, pregnancy discrimination, Planned Parenthood Black Community, Sexual and Reproductive Health, PP Black Community, black women, pregnancy, Black History Month, maternal health, reproductive justice, Reproductive Rights

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