#MaternalJustice

One of the most widespread and destructive stereotypes about the pro-life movement is the notion that we care only about gestating babies whose mothers are considering abortion. Our credibility has been seriously damaged by the perception that we emphasize the needs of babies to the exclusion of mothers’ needs, and focus chiefly on averting abortions without addressing the complexities of sustaining a pregnancy and mothering a baby.

In the United States, poor women face a discouraging number of barriers when they wish to continue a pregnancy; these challenges are magnified for minority women. Tonight members of Congress joined with healthcare providers and maternal advocacy groups in a Twitter discussion of the injustices faced by women who are attempting to choose life in a deeply flawed healthcare system. This post will summarize some of the evening’s questions and answers, and a Twitter search for the #MaternalJustice hashtag will allow interested readers to learn more.

One topic under discussion: access to prenatal care. Representative Joe Kennedy cited data on the results of Medicaid expansion, asserting that states where Medicaid coverage was expanded have seen lower rates of infant mortality. States that declined to expand Medicaid coverage, in unfortunate contrast, reported more dying infants.

In recent months the maternal mortality rate for African-American women has been the topic of multiple concerned news stories; effective public policy initiatives, however, have been harder to find. One reason for this may be that the problem has deep roots. A maternal-fetal medicine physician, Dr. Judette Louis, described discrepancies in outcomes for African-American women at her hospital: they are more likely to require a blood transfusion after childbirth because they are more likely to enter the hospital with anemia. Access to high-quality nutritious food for pregnant women, along with iron supplementation for those diagnosed with anemia during pregnancy, is a goal that demands bipartisan support.

Discussion participants also addressed the disproportionate risks faced by African-American women in the weeks after childbirth. High-risk obstetrician Dr. Alison Stuebe tweeted a graphic identifying symptoms that represent a particular concern for newly postpartum women:

Within the pro-life community we have often expressed concern about the rates of abortion in the African-American community, where women are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to seek abortions. Let’s be just as outspoken about the risks faced by pregnant African-American women, whose risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications is more than triple the nationwide baseline. In New York City, they face twelve times the odds that their pregnancies will kill them.

“Love them both” is a slogan sometimes seen on pro-life bumper stickers. Let’s put our money — and our most determined problem-solving efforts — where our mouth is.

Mercy Triumphs