Implicit bias in California is costing lives
“Exhausted from labor, I had no idea what to even say or ask. I never ended up receiving an overview of the process, nor any information on what I should expect or do post-partum. I was in the hospital for four days post op. Four days of excruciating pain due to being undermedicated. Four days of my mother begging nurses & doctors to pay attention to me and bring me some much-needed relief, because these doctors like many others in the medical field, held the dangerous & biased belief that Black women don’t experience as much pain as white women.” - Patrisse Cullors, Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter & former MomsRising Senior Fellow for Maternal Mortality
Like Patrisse, too many Black women in California have not been believed, been undermedicated, experienced lower standards of care and faced debilitating and even deadly maternal health outcomes solely based on the color of their skin.
Kyira Dixon-Johnson, for example, was in excellent health with no pre-existing conditions when on April 12, 2016, she delivered a healthy baby boy. Within 24 hours, however, Kyira would lose her life after bleeding internally for over ten hours due to a lacerated bladder. For ten hours her pain and her voice were ignored. For ten hours her family begged for medical intervention to no avail. Kyira’s death was preventable and her story illustrates a tragic reality for too many Black moms in California. Implicit bias is costing lives in this state, but you can join us to do something about it.
The Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act addresses alarming disparities in maternal health by requiring all medical providers involved in perinatal services at hospitals and alternative birth centers to undergo evidence-based implicit bias training. It requires the California Department of Public Health to track and publish maternal mortality and morbidity rates, including information about the underlying causes and the racial or ethnic identities of patients. The bill will also adopt the U.S. standard death certificate format regarding pregnancy to better capture information about maternal mortality.
In the past 5 decades, Black women nationally have consistently experienced 3-4 times greater risk of death from pregnancy complications than White women. This increased risk is independent of age, parity, or education. While maternal deaths across the country are on the rise, with California being the only state that did not see an increase in maternal deaths, there are still troubling racial disparities in this state when comes to birth outcomes.
From 2011 to 2013 the rate of maternal deaths for Black women was 26.4 per 100,000, compared to California’s average which is 7.3 per 100,000—a rate almost four times higher than the average Californian. According to a 2018 report released by the California Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Board, Black women made up 5% of the birth cohort in California, but 21% of the pregnancy-related deaths.
Join us in supporting bill sponsors Black Women for Wellness, ACT for Women and Girls, NARAL Pro-Choice California, the California Nurse-Midwives Association, and Western Center on Law and Poverty in telling CA legislators to pass the Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act in California!
Black women face racism throughout the healthcare delivery system, whether it's lack of access to quality care or not being believed when they're saying they're in pain or that something is wrong. In 2017, a reported 33% of black women said they personally been discriminated against when visiting a doctor or health clinic because of their race, and 21% said they avoid going to a doctor or seeking health care as a result of discrimination. The National Academy of the Sciences even found that medical students still held onto the mythology that Black people’s bodies could withstand more pain than white people.
Implicit bias training has real-world implications for pregnant Black people and is one of the key solutions to addressing California’s still abysmal racial disparity rate when it comes to maternal health outcomes.
Let’s help ensure that no other families have to experience the tragedy that Kyira’s family and too many other families have had to face.
Thank you for all that you do to stand up for the health of moms in California.