New Research Maps Where U.S. Moms, Babies Are Dying
This map depicts the state-by-state U.S. maternal mortality ratios for all racial backgrounds. Courtesy of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

This map depicts the state-by-state U.S. maternal mortality ratios for all racial backgrounds. Courtesy of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

Courtesy of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

Courtesy of the Preeclampsia Foundation.

By Meghan Jusczak, Jane Crow Project Writer
August 10, 2017

Maps of African American maternal and infant mortality rates now provide significant insight into where life-savings strategies could be focused and most effective. In the United States, African American mothers die three to four times more often than white mothers, but that ratio varies dramatically from state to state, city to city and rural region to region.

For example, an African American mother in New Jersey is more than 14 times more likely to die due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications than an average mother of any race in Massachusetts, a state that provides medical insurance for as little as $9 a month to all of its residents. Massachusetts’ overall maternal mortality ratio (5.6) is also significantly lower than the U.S. average for 2015 (26.4).

This data has become available President Trump and the U.S. Congress remain committed to cutting Medicaid’s budget. The federal health insurance plan pays for 69 percent of African American births.

The maternal mortality  comparative data, based on the maternal mortality ratios from an October 2016 research study are represented above through maps created by the Preeclampsia Foundation to illustrate dramatic disparities in U.S. maternal mortality rates by race and from state-to-state.

These disparities carry over into infant mortality as well. A map from the National Birth Equity Collaborative’s Campaign for Black Babies reveals that major cities with the highest losses of African American pregnant women and new mothers — Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston — are among the 18 cities in the United States with the highest rates of black infant mortality.

“When it comes to these racial disparities, or even state-by-state disparity, it is a series of contributing factors, none of these has one single reason--if they did, we would probably be applying one single solution,” said Eleni Tsigas, the executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation. “They’re deeply complex issues.”

Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, the founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, has detailed not only the root causes for the high rates of African American maternal and infant mortality in the United States (institutional racism, class oppression and gender discrimination and exploitation) but also how these root causes play out as social determinants of health, such as safe affordable housing, transportation and job security. Dr. Crear-Perry, based in New Orleans, presented her findings in July as part of the Council on Patient Safety in Women’s Health Care’s Safety Action Series.

These factors then can contribute to psychosocial stress and potential unhealthy behaviors, she reported.

Joining Dr. Crear-Perry in the presentation, Chanel L. Porchia, the founder and executive director of Brooklyn’s Ancient Doula Song Services,  elaborated on black women’s “psychosocial stress.”

Intergenerational trauma among African American families (many now believe DNA can be modified due to recurring traumatic events) and the chronic stress of unequal treatment that, over the course of a lifetime, causes anxiety and releases stress hormones. These biological processes not only create “wear and tear on the body’s organs and systems, but can trigger premature labor,” Porchia said, quoting Dr. Michael Lu’s research. He is head of Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the federal Health and Human Services agency.

Alexis Dunn is another investigator into fatal health disparities. Dunn, a doctoral student in nursing at Atlanta’s Emory University, focuses her research on potential biological factors that explain why African American women are at the highest risk for preterm births (which is one of the leading causes of infant mortality). Emory is the preeminent university among the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“So much of what we do in this field is reactionary,” Dunn said. The larger research project she is a part of aims to be more preventative and create screenings that can reveal which women are at the highest risk for preterm births.

Outside of her research, Dunn said another way to address maternal and infant mortality from a more preventative approach is to address the shortage of U.S. maternity care providers. Georgia has one of the greatest number of births per year (more than 130,000 in 2015), some of the highest maternal mortality rates and a severe shortage of maternity care providers.

 

“Obstetric deserts” in Georgia

According to a 2014 study from Georgia’s House of Representatives, 52 percent of the counties outside of the Atlanta metropolitan area have overburdened obstetric providers or none whatsoever.

By 2020, the report estimates, 75 percent of these counties will lack adequate obstetric services.

“With one OB and a midwife, we did 550 deliveries last year,” said a representative from the only obstetrical practice in Moultrie, Ga., the third largest city in the state’s Southwest area. “Sometimes we see 60 women in a day; 75 to 80 percent of our patients are on Medicaid. It’s difficult to recruit physicians of any kind to this area.”

Despite the rising need, obstetric units throughout the state are closing--two units closed in October 2014, the month the report was published.

One solution to these “obstetric deserts” Dunn mentioned is an increased reliance on midwives. More stringent rules for midwifery in Georgia exist than in states with much better maternal outcomes, such as Oregon. Midwives must engage in “collaborative practice agreements” in Georgia, where at least four midwives must work with one physician. This makes it difficult for nurse-midwives to use the holistic approach in which they specialize, she said.

According to maps above, Oregon, with a ratio of 8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, has the best outcomes for black mothers in the nation. Georgia, at 49.9 per 100,000, is among the worst.

“For the obstetric deserts, if there were fewer regulations, we could put some midwives in those areas,” Dunn said. “There are no doctors in that area, and we could at least put a midwife in that area. So we’re making a big push in our state right now, because it also costs significantly less to train a midwife. Plus we have the data to back it up that shows that nurse-midwives provide great maternity care.”

 

Congressional bills to address maternal mortality

In addition to pushing back against federal threats to Medicaid and public health infrastructure, Tsigas mentioned that the Preeclampsia Foundation is leading some of the advocacy efforts to pass two Congressional bills to decrease maternal mortality rates across the United States.

The House bill, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017, was introduced in March and has more momentum, with one sponsor and 59 cosponsors signed on. The Senate’s Maternal Health Accountability Act introduced in May will build on many of the same objectives.

The bills focus on what Tsigas calls “maternal safety bundles” that address different factors leading to maternal mortality (and often infant mortality), such as obstetric hemorrhage, inadequate postpartum care, maternal depression and anxiety and better care for mothers with hypertension (A list of all the bundles, with more information on each, can be found here).

“The reason we’re so adamantly behind this bill is that it’s not just theoretical solutions,” Tsigas said. “Some parts of the bill are already being implemented and there are concrete effects.”

In California specifically, some elements of the bill, such as prescribing emergency hemorrhage care, are in place and as a result, over the last few years, overall maternal mortality has declined in the state.

“Honestly, it just comes down to the fact that women in every state should have hospitals that are using best practices,” Tsigas said. “And then they experience the better outcomes that come from those best practices.”

 

Rita Henley JensenComment
Senate bills' threats to Medicaid would disproportionately impact black women

By Meghan Jusczak, Jane Crow Project Writer
July 25, 2017

Despite last week’s failure, Congressional Republicans’ single-minded quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act continues. With their mantra, “repeal and replace,” the Senate Republicans voted today to open debate on the most recent bill.

The nation faces a long week of debate and voting in the Senate, and potentially the House as well. It’s bound to be complete political theater, with President Trump making inconsistent statements, the senators on the fence deciding their votes and media updates hour-by-hour as the drama unfolds.

The health care of millions of Americans, particularly women, is at stake.

Christy Gamble, the director of health policy and legislative affairs at the Black Women’s Health Imperative, said the bills in question will “decimate Medicaid” by cutting its funding in the billions, a move that disproportionately impacts people of color, specifically black women in the South.

The bills coming out of Congress to repeal the ACA will exacerbate racial health disparities and lead to economic insecurity for black women and their families, Gamble said. Because black women are more likely to be heads of their households or single mothers, their children usually rely on their health care plans.

However, even under the Affordable Care Act, the United States has serious health care access issues that amount to racial “health care apartheid,” said Monifa Bandele, the vice president and chief partnership and diversity officer at MomsRising.org.

Thirty percent of black women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, Gamble said, and this does not account for the “significant number” of black women who go uninsured under the Affordable Care Act because they earn too much to qualify under their states’ Medicaid rules and too little for private insurance. (The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care policy nonprofit, estimates that this gap accounts for 1.1 million uninsured women).

Bandele put it simply: “If you were to cut down Medicaid or gut Medicaid--as is clearly the case with what these bills are ultimately trying to do--you are going to kill black women.”

In Bandele and Gamble’s opinions, Medicaid funding should be expanding further than it did under the ACA--but they say they cannot discount that the ACA brought a 40 percent drop in the number of Americans who were uninsured. This means that tens of thousands of women who did not previously have access to preventative care now do, under the ACA. Gamble named lack of access to preventative care--which includes well visits with doctors, cancer screenings, prenatal care and beyond--as the source of some of the most prominent racial health disparities.

Black women are 41 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, largely because it is often detected much later, Gamble said. African American women are also more vulnerable to triple-negative breast cancer, a form that strikes younger women and is highly aggressive. Maternal mortality is also up to four times as high for black women and maternal morbidity is twice as high in comparison to white women.

In fact, the United States is the only developed nation in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise, Bandele said.

“Maternal deaths--it’s the type of thing that a lot of people think exists only in countries with shortages of water, poverty, too few medical providers,” Bandele said. “But black mothers are facing a crisis here.”

Bandele described the racial disparity in maternal deaths as one with “many, many levers.” One of the most important, though, is access to health care. If mothers receive adequate care during their pregnancies, health care providers can protect against many of the conditions that lead to complications during pregnancy and birth, such as preeclampsia, hypertension and preexisting conditions like heart disease or diabetes. This preventative care can save the lives of both mothers and infants, she said.

“Medicaid covers nearly half of all births in the United States,” Bandele said. “You already have people falling through the cracks, and if you were to remove that, the number of women dying would increase and explode.”

The Senate bills also propose eliminating maternity care as an essential health benefit, meaning plans will be able to choose if they cover it--and this typically means they will not or that level of coverage will be extremely expensive, Gamble said.

According to data from Castlight Health, a health care information company, American women pay, on average, $8,775 for vaginal births and $11,525 for cesarean sections (though in Los Angeles, c-sections can cost more than $40,000). Without maternity care coverage, many women may be forced to choose between their health and economic security.

Blog: A TV Series That Is Just Too Close to Home

By Rita Henley Jensen, Jane Crow Founder

On the July 4th weekend, I belatedly tuned into the first episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale” series. Got there six weeks after it debuted on Hulu and, having read the noveI by Margaret Atwood and several reviews, I thought I knew what to expect.

Yet, I had to turn it off before the hour was up. It was too real.

It did, however, give me an “aha” moment.

As founder of the Jane Crow Project, focusing on the rising maternal mortality rates in the United States, particularly among African Americans, I have often asked anyone who would listen: What Are They Thinking? The “they” in this case are members of Congress and state legislatures who compete among each other to propose and pass the most extreme attacks on reproductive health. 

At the same time, they ignore the growing public health disaster: More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the United States is the rate of dying new mothers rising.

What are they thinking in Indiana, for example? Don’t they care about new moms?

The home state of Vice President Mike Pence is outpacing Texas at the moment. Republicans there, and in Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, are the leading contenders to receive first prize in the race to be the state with the most regressive anti-reproductive health laws.

Early this year, the legislatures entertained “personhood laws” seeking to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses as “persons,” and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to life from the moment of conception. If enacted, the laws would criminalize abortion, with no exception, and ban many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization and health care for pregnancy.

Pence served as a co-sponsor for a similar personhood bill in Congress.

Texas began a mission in 2011 to shut down Planned Parenthood, other sources of reproductive health care and abortion clinics. The state's budget for family planning was cut by two-thirds at the same time, forcing 82 family planning clinics to close — a third of which were Planned Parenthood centers.

The Texas maternal mortality rates began to rise dramatically. Between 2000 and 2010, 72 Texan women died from pregnancy-related causes. In the following two years, 148 Texan women lost their lives due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

What could they be thinking? How could they be aware of the possible fatal consequences to pregnant women of their legislation and still support it?

Back to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The recent women’s health data indicated that in 2016, the fertility rate in the United States was the lowest it has ever been.

The National Center for Health Statistics researcher reported that the U.S. fertility rate dropped to 62 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, down 1 percent from 2015. There were 3,941,109 babies born in 2016; birthrates declined to record lows in all groups under age 30. Among women ages 20 to 24, the decline was 4 percent. For women 25 to 29, the rate fell 2 percent.

Oooh. And the “aha” moment.

While I have been worried about the rising maternal mortality and morbidity rates, the anti-choicers apparently have come to the conclusion that if U.S. women are choosing to forgo the joys and pains of motherhood more often, the proper strategy is move toward compulsory pregnancy.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is fiction, but elimination of women’s access to reproductive health care is not. In the first quarter of this year, Guttmacher Institute’s report found that state legislatures across the country have introduced 431 proposed measures to limit access to abortion and other reproductive health services.

The speculation for the series’ second season is that might be even darker than the first. Knowing that antagonists to women’s reproductive health are controlling the White House, the U.S. Congress and the state legislatures for at least another season, I don’t expect I will be watching.  Just too close to home. Just too much work to do.

Midwives and Doulas

Jane Crow Project has a specific page gathering the images and voices  of African American midwives and doulas. Recent updates include links to two videos: All My Babies, a classic film from the 1950s, it is both educational tool and poetic portrait of a black midwife and childbirth in the Deep South. (Public Domain) George Stoney's classic All My Babies is not only a profound portrait of midwife "Miss Mary" Coley, but also is a documentary record of the living conditions of African-American families in 1950s Georgia.

The second is an introduction to the Legacy of African American midwives, featuring Safia G. Monroe,  a midwife, historian, and public health professional with the mission of reducing infant and maternal mortality.

Report: Millennials Are Poorer, at Higher Risk for Maternal Death

By Meghan Jusczak, Jane Crow Project Writer

WASHINGTON, DC – Today’s young American women are sliding into poverty at a sharply higher rate than previous generations, including a 37 percent increase among women in the key demographic of ages 30 to 34, an international research organization found. Counter-intuitively, this rapid increase in poverty rates occurred during the same era as women’s educational attainment and workforce participation also rose.

The June 12 report “paints a picture of lost momentum,” said Beth Jarosz, a senior research associate at Population Reference Bureau and co-author of the report. While some improvements have been made--increased rates of women in higher education and declining teen pregnancy and cigarette smoking rates--overall progress has stalled or deteriorated for the women between ages 16 and 34.

“Losing Ground: Young Women’s Well-Being Across Generations in the United States” compared U.S. women’s well-being from 1945 to 2015, documenting trends in the lives of Millennials and their mothers and grandmothers:

In addition to these economic setbacks, “Losing Ground” also details surprising reversals for young women’s physical safety and healthy. Since the 1990s, rates of maternal mortality, suicide, incarceration and drug overdose death all increased rapidly, the bureau found.

The economic disadvantages hit women across levels of education:

·      Economic security has become less attainable since the mid-1990s, particularly for women without college degrees. Median earnings among women with at least a bachelor’s degree are 2.5 times higher than those of women who did not graduate high school, the report found.

·      Marriage rates also are decreasing rapidly among those without college degrees, creating a “marriage gap” based on educational attainment--further stratifying high- and low-wage female workers. In 2015, 40 percent of women between ages 25 and 34 in female-headed families with children were poor, in comparison to the poverty rate of 10 percent among young married-couple families with children.

·      Women of color remain disproportionately impacted by these economic disparities.

Even as economic insecurity increased, more U.S. women are enrolling in and completing college than ever--38 percent of Millennial women have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, in comparison to 12 percent of the World War II generation, their grandmothers. More American women enroll and graduate from college than men, but continue to earn less money than men at every education level, the report’s authors write.

While more young women are members of the workforce, occupational gender segregation--the concentration of genders in certain careers over others--persists. Fewer women (22.5 percent) enter high-earning science, technology, engineering and math occupations than they did 20 years ago (25.1 percent).

·     The higher maternal mortality rate for Millennials was one of the more surprising finding in the report. In comparison to their Baby Boomer mothers, who experienced a maternal mortality rate of 9.2 per 100,000 births, Millennial women die due to pregnancy complications more than twice as often (19.2). The report’s authors wrote that the growing number of maternal deaths indicate “substantial failings in the health system, such as lack of access to care and possibly inadequate treatment or discrimination in treatment.” They also noted that care for postpartum women has not paralleled improvements in infant care.

·      The American maternal mortality rate is now the highest among developed countries and higher than the rate in some developing nations. The rate among African American mothers and women with low levels of education paints an even grimmer picture, as these groups are disproportionately represented in U.S. maternal deaths: 50 black mothers die from pregnancy and delivery complications per 100,000 births in comparison to 16 deaths of white mothers per 100,000 births.

·      Suicide deaths among Millennial women occur at the highest rate since the World War II generation. This cannot be attributed to a greater number of suicide attempts, but rather young women shifting to more lethal methods of self-harm, such as suffocation (often through hanging), the authors wrote.  

·      Women’s incarceration rates also have skyrocketed, despite a decline in overall crime rates. Today’s young women are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than the World War II generation, according to the report. Women’s incarceration also is often linked to past trauma. The White House Council on Women and Girls called this the “sexual-abuse-to-prison-pipeline.”

·      Drug overdose death rates among women ages 25 to 34 tripled from 3 per 100,000 drug deaths in 1999-2001 to more than 11 per 100,000 in 2013-2015. Better education and treatment for addiction would not only reduce the number of deaths but also greatly impact the number of women incarcerated, the report’s authors argued.

Rita Henley Jensen
New Alliance Opens Discussion on Black Maternal Mortality

By Rita Henley Jensen

Washington D.C.--Leading activists aiming to reduce racial disparities in maternal health joined forces June 14, producing the first congressional briefing by black female leaders on the dramatic racial differences in U.S. maternal mortality rates.

“Maternal health will improve when black women’s human rights are realized,” said Dr. Joia Crear Perry, when she opened the gathering. A New Orleans physician and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Dr. Perry added: “To have true equity, being black is not a risk factor but racism is.”

In a packed hearing room in the House Office Building, Fleda Mask Jackson connected the dots between the stress on pregnant African American women to lowering the maternal mortality and morbidity rates, as well as reducing the infant mortality and prematurity rates in the black community. Based in Atlanta, Jackson is the creator of Save 100 Babies, a cross-sector network based in Atlanta devoted to a social determinants, asset-based approach for eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. 

The sole male speaker was Dr. Haywood Brown, the first African American president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He said the face of a 17-year-old high school senior, an honor student from a strongly religious family, still haunts him. Ashamed, she hid her pregnancy. Those close to her, friends and teachers, joined the team of silence. She had no prenatal care. She had a seizure at school; the infant was saved, but she was not.

“One prenatal visit could have prevented her death,” Dr. Brown said, emphasizing that many maternal deaths can be avoided. He noted 17 states have yet to develop a maternal mortality review committee to scrutinize each and every maternal death and analyze the factors that led to the fatality.

“For every maternal death, 100 women suffer from extreme maternal morbidity,” Dr. Brown said. “That is 60,000 a year.”

The Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a collaboration of Sister Song, an Atlanta-based reproductive advocacy organization, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, sponsored the briefing. The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls supported the briefing.

Washington D.C. – Leading activists aiming to reduce racial disparities in maternal health joined forces June 14, producing the first congressional briefing by black female leaders on the dramatic racial differences in U.S. maternal mortality rates.

In a packed hearing room in the House Office Building, Fleda Mask Jackson emphasized the importance of maternal health and the reduction of the stress on pregnant African American women to lowering the maternal mortality and morbidity rates as well as the infant mortality and prematurity rates in the black community. Based in Atlanta, Jackson is the creator of Save 100 Babies, a cross-sector network based in Atlanta devoted to a social determinants, asset-basedapproach for eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. 

“Maternal health will improve when black women’s human rights are realized,” said Dr. Joia Crear Perry, when she opened the gathering. A New Orleans physician, and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, Dr. Perry added: “To have true equity, being black is not a risk factor – but racism is.”

The sole male speaker was Dr. Haywood Brown, the first African American president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He said the face of a 17-year-old high school senior, an honor student from a strongly religious family, still haunts him. Ashamed, she hid her pregnancy. Those close to her, friends and teachers, joined the team of silence. She had no prenatal care. She had a seizure at school; the infant was saved, but she was not.

“One prenatal visit could have prevented her death,” Dr. Brown said, emphasizing that many maternal deaths can be avoided. He noted 17 states have yet to develop a maternal mortality review committee to scrutinize each and every maternal death and analyze the factors that led to the fatality.

“For every maternal death, 100 women suffer from extreme maternal morbidity,” Dr. Brown said. “That is 60,000 a year.”

The Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a collaboration of Sister Song, an Atlanta-based reproductive advocacy organization and the Center for Reproductive Rights, sponsored the briefing. The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls supported the briefing.

Rita Henley Jensen
Report: Poverty and Powerlessness Reflected in Lives of African American Women

By Meghan Jusczak, for Jane Crow Project

NEW YORK, June 13 – African American women’s earnings shrank by 5 percent in the decade ending in 2014, even though they are more likely to participate in the workforce than any other group of women. This is one of the many statistics that emerged in a June 7 report reflecting the consequences of overlapping racial and gender discrimination in the lives of African American women.

“While Black women are working hard, democracy isn’t working for us, and hard work isn’t paying off,” said Alicia Garza, the special projects director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, which collaborated in researching and producing the report. “Black families depend on Black women, yet Black women face the highest poverty rates in the nation, second only to indigenous women. We do our part to make this country better — we vote at higher rates than any other racial or ethnic group. It’s time for an agenda that puts Black women at the center, for the sake of all of us.”

The findings in the report, “The Status of Black Women in the United States,” produced by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research with Garza’s group analyzes data from every state and offers policy recommendations across six key topics affecting African American women: political participation, employment and earnings, work and family, poverty and opportunity, health and well-being and violence and safety.

·      African American women voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections at greater rates than any other demographic group, yet they remain underrepresented in elected offices.

·      African American women who work fulltime bring home 64 cents for every dollar white men earn.

·      In all but two states, the average cost of childcare exceeds 20 percent of African-American women’s average earnings, rendering it unaffordable to many.

·      One in four African American women in the United States live in poverty, more than twice the rate of white American women (one in ten).

·      African American women have the highest death rates from heart disease (177.7 per 100,000) and breast cancer (30.2 per 100,000) in comparison to all racial and ethnic groups of women.

·      African American women experience higher rates of intimate partner violence than women of other races and backgrounds. More than 40 percent of African American women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes.

·      African American women were imprisoned at twice the rate of white women (109 per 100,000 African American women compared to 53 per 100,000 white women).

“Economic justice is the unfinished business of the civil rights movement,” said Tracy Sturdivant, the co-founder and co-executive director of Make It Work, a campaign working to advance economic security, during a panel convened to respond to the report.

Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, led the panel with seven other African American leaders: Sturdivant; Chakilah Abdullah Ali, leader of the We Dream in Black North Carolina Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; LaTosha Brown, project director of the Grantmakers for Southern Progress; Monifa Bandele, vice president for child partnership and diversity at MomsRising.org; Tanya Wallace-Gobern, executive director of the National Black Worker Center Project; Jessica Byrd, founder of Three Point Strategies, which supports candidates incorporating social justice into their campaign platforms and Nana Afua Y. Brantuo, the policy manager at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

Though the panel addressed a variety of topics, the conversation repeatedly returned to issues of economic opportunity and security for African American women.

African American families depend on women’s incomes, the report said — 80.6 percent are breadwinners, meaning they are either the sole earner or earn at least 40 percent of household income. This is true even though most African American mothers remain employed in low-paying caretaking and service jobs. Employers in these areas usually offer few benefits. The report found that more than one-third of employed African American women do not have access to paid sick days. Yet in addition to caring for children, 16.4 percent of African American women under age 65 live with someone aged 15 or older with a disability.

The report also touched on the high maternal mortality rates among African American women, who are more than three times as likely as white women to die due to pregnancy and childbirth. And although rates are decreasing, they also have the highest rates of infant mortality (11.3 per 1,000 live births). Inequalities in Black women’s reproductive health can be attributed partially to unequal access to healthcare and racial discrimination within the medical system, the report notes, as well as broader threats at the federal and state levels to end contraception, safe abortions and other family planning services for low-income women.

“Black women are central to holding together many households and communities,” Moms Rising’s Bandele said. But because these mothers live at the intersection of racism, sexism and maternal discrimination, she added, they remain “undervalued and undercompensated” across the nation.

Read the full report here:

https://www.domesticworkers.org/status-black-women-united-states

 

Related Jane Crow stories:

http://www.janecrow.info/stories/

http://www.janecrow.info/sept-9-2015-nyc-death-rates/

http://www.janecrow.info/june-16-2015-georgia-negligence/

Rita Henley Jensen
Part Two: Historical Trauma of Lynching

The project set out to document the historical trauma experienced by African American women after slavery and Reconstruction. Violence is inherent in the process of enslavement and ruling over other human beings. Reconstruction was an era filled with opportunity and hope—often dashed--for African Americans, suddenly freed slaves and those who were living unyoked before 1865; those in the South and the North alike.

Federal troops were withdrawn from the South in 1877 and after a Supreme Court decision denied the federal government’s responsibility for controlling mob violence and white terrorism, lynching rose in frequency and ferocity throughout the South and occasionally in other states outside the region.

The Jane Crow Project began to investigate the lynching of African American women to establish that they too were murdered by white supremacy terrorists but also to once again challenge the dominate narrative that only black men accused of raping white women were lynched. In fact, roughly 80 percent of the lynchings were touched off by all sorts of accusations, but often they were directly related to the economics of the sharecropper system that made African American women and men dependent on plantation owners to fairly distribute the proceeds from the sale of the cotton crops.

As we gathered the names of female lynching victims, we came across a troubling phenomenon. Many of the 188 female victims of mob murders were nameless in two distinct ways: They were listed as an “unidentified Negro women” or their names were Mrs. followed by their spouses’ names.  In addition, some were listed only as “daughter.” Finally, many of the facts surrounding their murders are unknown.

First question: Should the Jane Crow Project repeat the exact wording of the listing, including the word “Negro?” The project’s style is to use the phrase African American to be more precise and the phrase women of African descent, to include women living in other nations. However, the current listings did not use either, but used the word “black.” In the end, we decided to go with “black,” because the term is commonly used by such organizations as Black Mamas Matter.

Third question: What should the name be linked to? In some cases, we found contemporary newspaper accounts; in others, like the Hastings’ mother and daughter, no more than their names, murder site and date. We opted for links to a source, however brief the mention, just in case a visitor wanted to follow up with the author of that list.

Here is an example of how we resolved one case, mentioned by the anti-lynching journalist and activist Ida B. Wells in her book “Red Record,” published in 1895.

(mother)         Hastings        1892/11/02   BlackJonesville      LA      

https://goo.gl/jZeU0c

(daughter)     Hastings        1892/11/02   BlackJonesville      LA      

https://goo.gl/jZeU0c

This mention by Wells is in the section “alleged well poisonings,” a common accusation against lynching victims. Women were particularly vulnerable to accusations of poisonings because they often prepared the food believed to be toxic. We found no other record of this double murder.

Second question How to refer to the women listed only by their married names? And what about their daughters who were murdered with them?

We decided to include the spouse’s name in parenthesis when we did not have the victim’s first name. Here is an example one that includes the murder of an unnamed daughter as well.

(Mrs. Jim)      Cross 1900/03/02   BlackLowndes       AL      

https://goo.gl/XCZY0X

(daughter )    Cross 1900/03/02   BlackLowndes       AL      

https://goo.gl/XCZY0X.

In this case, no more information was available.

Third question: What should the name be linked to? In some cases, we found contemporary newspaper accounts; in others, like the Hastings’ mother and daughter, no more than their names, murder site and date. We opted for links to a source, however brief the mention, just in case a visitor wanted to follow up with the author of that list.  

Fourth question: Should we include the full identity of the link. Some were simply too extensive. We decided to use tiny urls. Some work better than others; all have been tested and work if pasted into a reader’s search engine. That was our best guess on how to handle the links.

Next month, Jane Crow will blog about the “Red Summer 1919:” again many facts are unknown as well.”

Rita Henley Jensen
Part One: Historical Trauma of Lynching

In its attempts to more deeply understand the high rate of  maternal mortality experienced by African American communities, the Jane Crow Project has compiled the names (when they were available), dates and locations of lynchings of women, as gathered by others: Ida B. Wells, the NAACP,  Crystal Feimster, Maria DeLongoria, Kerry Segrave,  Professor William SerailleGrif Stockley, and so many more historians and researchers. Some links lead to other listings; some to newspaper contemporaneous newspaper accounts; others to books. No list is exactly alike and we have done our best to confirm the names and dates on this one. Some If you have an addition or a correction, please email us at rita@janecrowinfo.info Special thanks and appreciation to Bridgette Maynard, who spent last semester at UMass Amherst juggling her studies and spending nights and weekend performing research for this project. 

 

WHAT IS KNOWN NOW: WOMEN LYNCHED IN THE U.S. 

Lynching, that is the extra-judicial killings, was practiced widely by white mobs in the United States during the so-called Jim Crow era, from 1877 up to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. The likelihood is high that this extreme and random mob violence, one that included torture and burning victims alive witnessed by thousands, created a legacy of trauma impacting the lives of all African Americans to this day, whether through epigenetics or through family narratives and current parallels. Moreover, given recent events, it is clearer than ever that all African Americans--male and female-- remain frequent targets of law enforcement for extra-judicial violence, even to the point of homicide. The crowd may now witness the assaults via videos posted on line. 

Most of the lynching victims were black men and male teens. However, we have been able to track down a list of nearly 200 who were female and a handful were white.  And just as lynchings were a tool to terrorize black men and boys, extra-judicial murders of women--white and black--were a vehicle to enforce and enhance the sexual and racial dominance of white men. Some were accused of a crime; others were a spouse or a relative of a man being lynched.  

Currently, the narrative of lynching is commonly one in which black men were falsely accused of raping white women and hung in front of a mob.This grossly the distorts the history to one of sexual jealousy. Most resources estimate that one in six male lynching victims were accused of rape. Victims were most often seeking fair compensation for their work or accused of petty crimes. Others were accused of serious crimes but not given the due process of law.  The dominant narrative also excludes female victims. To encourage a more accurate understanding of the role of the terror endured by African American families and some white women in the South, the Jane Crow Project gathered the names currently known of female lynch victims.

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Rita Henley Jensen
This Month, Let's Talk About Black Motherhood Too



By Kylie Patterson and Dawn Godbolt

Jane Crow Project Guest Columnists
 

IN MAY, we in the United States mark a day when millions of women are celebrated for being a Mom. Unfortunately, access to healthy motherhood is dramatically reduced for black women compared to white women, as black women’s maternal mortality rate is three-to-four  times that of white women, a statistic that demonstrates the embodiment of a stratified society.
 

Currently, almost a third of black and brown women who are of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid. These women rely on Medicaid to provide access to reproductive healthcare including prenatal care and the medical treatments needed for delivery and post-delivery.

     Kylie Patterson

     Kylie Patterson

        Dawn Godbolt

        Dawn Godbolt

Instead of finding new ways to cut Medicaid’s budget, the U.S. Congress should create subsidies for mothers to support the full range of reproductive health care At the same time, the federal government should take action to level the economic turf for women of color by changing the rules for government benefits that continue to discriminate against them: Social Security and unemployment insurance as well access to low-interest home loans providing them the tax  benefits of home ownership;. The federal government should also create inducements for employers to provide standard benefits for their staff members,  including health insurance, paid sick and parental leaves plus college savings plans.

Many factors are responsible for that high death rate, but one important one is the lack of wealth reflected in the Medicaid enrollment but just as important is their lack of wealth.

The Wealth Gap Influences Parenting Decisions
Today, black women’s median wealth is $200, and for Latina women it is $100, compared to $15,640 for a single white woman. For single women who are parents, the statistics become more dire – black women have $0 in wealth and Latina women have $50, compared to a white woman’s $14,600. These numbers hold despite the fact that black and brown women are more likely to be members of the paid workforce than their white counterparts. One might argue this is a consequence of single motherhood – however for married women, the poverty rate for African American women is more than two times that of white women and for Latina women the poverty rate is four times that of white women. No surprise given the wage and employment discrimination experienced by men of color.
 

For black expectant moms, wealth impacts the choices they make about employment: insurance, pre-term care (appointments and prenatal vitamins), maternity leave (taking off before the baby is born or one to four months of unpaid leave postpartum), housing (renting or buying), and how they begin to invest in the futures of their newborn or unborn children (college bonds or savings accounts).

How else might wealth affect black women’s wombs? Today, more and more women are choosing to delay motherhood as they focus on educational attainment and career advancement. Women across races are having children later in life.  Older new mothers experience higher maternal mortality rates and for black women already at risk, their past-35 pregnancies heighten their vulnerability..

As for those who delayed trying and find themselves unable to conceive, the economics of race may shut out them out of fertility treatments at this point in their lives as well., denying them the opportunity to experience the profound joy of motherhood. 
 

The average cost of a round of in vitro with “fresh” eggs, eggs that have not been frozen, is $8,158 according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. The cost of freezing one’s eggs to support family planning is limited to the wealthy, as the process costs between $4,990 and $15,000. How might a black woman with $200 dollars of wealth or a Latina woman with $100 dollars of wealth ever afford such a procedure?
 

Now, as throughout the nation’s history, those seeking public support for cutting Medicaid and access to family planning services nationwide appeal to the worst instincts of those who would turn the reproductive health calendar back to the 1950s, before the civil rights acts of the 1960s and a liberal Supreme Court.

As the 13 senators digest their Mother’s Day brunch, they should keep in mind the women of color whose reproductive choices, from contraception to maternal care to fertility treatments, are constrained by the economic consequences of being black in America. Call your senator, particularly if he campaigns on being “family friendly.”
 

(Kylie Patterson is the Senior Program Manager for the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at CFED and New Leaders Council Alum; Dawn Godbolt is a Health Equity Fellow at the Center for Global Policy Solutions. Both are participants in the Allies Reaching for Community Health Equity Public Voices Fellowship with The OpEd Project.)

 

Research Trail for Jane Crow Project

As founder and editor in chief of Women's eNews, I led a project from 2009 to 2016 on the underlying cause of the high maternal mortality and morbidity rates among American women of African descent.

Now I am delighted to spend full-time researching and publishing information on the factors that influence the African American women's maternal health, including historic trauma. I expect to produce a book that will document historical trauma and current maternal care practices that undercut the health of African American women.

It is my belief that if this work reduces the maternal deaths and life-threatening complications among American women of African descent,  it will also improve the maternal care delivered to all American women and perhaps rein in the rising U.S. maternal mortality rate. Thank you for your interest. Rita Henley Jensen May, 2017

 

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