When U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri was pregnant with her first child, Zion, she saw a sign in her doctor’s office encouraging her to speak up about anything unusual she was feeling.
She did so, telling her physician that she was having severe pains, but her concerns were swiftly dismissed. The doctor told Bush, who is African American, that she was fine and sent her home — and one week later, Bush went into early labor.
“At 23 weeks, my son was born, one pound, three ounces,” Bush told a congressional hearing Thursday on Black maternal mortality. “His ears were still in his head. His eyes were still fused shut. His fingers were smaller than rice, and his skin was translucent, a Black baby, translucent.”
Bush recalled that the doctor who delivered her son apologized for not listening to her.
But when she was pregnant with her second child, she faced the same situation. She again went into early labor, and a different doctor refused to help her, telling Bush in a clear reference to her race: “You can get pregnant again, because that’s what you people do.”
Her story is far from unusual.
Mothers, spouses and loved ones of Black people who have died as a result of childbirth complications described their experiences to the House Oversight and Reform Committee in heartbreaking detail.
Black birthing people are three times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death when compared to their white counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also experience higher rates of pregnancy complications, infant loss, and miscarriage.
Affluent Black Americans also are disproportionately affected: a Black person with a college degree is twice as likely to experience a severe physical or mental complication from childbirth than a white woman without a high school degree, said Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell, medical director for the Louisiana Perinatal Quality Collaborative.
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