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PPSNE advocates for health care access equity and community-driven solutions to confront the Black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis

(New Haven, Conn.) – At the close of the second annual Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17), Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) affirms its continued commitment to advancing health equity for all people by standing with partners in the reproductive justice movement, our patients and their families, and Black-led community organizations working to improve health care access and decrease the rate of Black maternal mortality.

“Planned Parenthood of Southern New England recognizes the need to do everything we can to support Black mothers and continue providing access to high-quality reproductive health care services they need and deserve,” said Kafi Rouse, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at PPSNE. “We are proud to fight alongside our community partners and members of the reproductive justice movement to end the discrimination and implicit bias in our health care system that disproportionately harms Black mothers.”

In the United States, Black maternal mortality and morbidity is a crisis. Black women in America are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes and suffer life-threatening complications from pregnancy twice as often as white women. Because of racial disparities in health care access and quality, Black women are more likely to experience medical conditions—such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia—that lead to pregnancy complications. This crisis cuts across income and education levels, socioeconomic status and physical health conditions; simply put, an individual who is Black is more likely to die or suffer severe harm while pregnant because of their skin color.

A 2017 story-collection project, conducted by NPR and ProPublica, identified more than 200 accounts of Black women feeling devalued, disrespected, and dismissed by medical providers. And, a 2016 UVA study showed that as substantial number of white medical student and residents believe that patients who are Black are less sensitive to pain and have thicker skin than those who are white. Black Maternal Health Week provided a platform to lift up the individual experiences of those affected by racial disparities in health care. 

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England believes that carrying a pregnancy to term should not put women’s lives at risk. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, PPSNE is a member of coalition efforts to pass legislation to expand access to perinatal doula care by making these services eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid.

Specific legislation includes:

  • Connecticut bill SB 1078, “An Act Concerning Doula Certification and Medicaid Reimbursement for Doula Services,” introduced by Senator Marilyn Moore, provides a statewide definition for perinatal doula care and a path to reimbursement for certified doulas.
  • Rhode Island bill H5609 and S0678, “The Rhode Island Doula Care Reimbursement Act,” introduced by Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Senator Ana Quezada, provides a statewide definition for perinatal doula care and a path to reimbursement for certified registered doulas who meet eligibility requirements.
  • Both pieces of legislation make doula care accessible to those who cannot pay for these services out-of-pocket; many doulas are currently unable to provide care because they cannot be reimbursed by insurance.

Receiving support and care from a perinatal doula during pregnancy, labor, and into the postpartum period has been shown to increase positive outcomes for mother and child. The American College of OB-GYNs released a consensus statement in 2014 which read, “published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula.”

Access to reproductive health care—including culturally competent perinatal and postpartum care—is an essential human right. PPSNE is committed to providing quality, compassionate, and accessible care to ensure Black mothers can access the services, education, and social supports they need to keep themselves and their families healthy.

ABOUT BLACK MATERNAL HEALTH WEEK

Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) was founded and led by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, an initiative which centers Black mamas to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice. The group was formed in 2013 through a partnership between the Center for Reproductive Rights and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance uses Black Maternal Health Week as a platform to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health and amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions.