The Black Maternal Mortality Rate in the US Is an International Crisis

Archive, Articles | October 3 2016

By Dr. Joia Crear Perry

Last week I spoke at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge the United States to use a human rights framework to improve maternal mortality in the U.S. That’s right: Black women are dying around the world, and black women in the U.S. need to be placed in the context of an international crisis.

The United States is the only developed country in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise. Black women in the South are acutely at risk. Black women in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white women. Despite clear evidence of this inequity, policymakers and, as a consequence, the government have not made this an urgent public health and human rights issue.

As a black mother from Louisiana who is also an obstetrician, I feel a deep desire to end this inequity, a desire that is amplified every time I look into the mirror and into the faces of my daughter and patients. In my own home state, black women die 3.5 times more than white women within one year of birth. Many of these women die from homicide or suicide. This is why my organization, the National Birth Equity Collaborative, joined the group Black Mamas Matter. Black Mamas Matter is adapting the United Nations’ technical-guidance document on maternal mortality.  (Read more)