COLUMBUS— The Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus (OBMHC) is introducing a resolution this week to recognize Black Maternal Health Week in Ohio. Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17) is an annual event that promotes awareness and seeks to advance and improve Black maternal health outcomes across the country.
The OBMHC will also honor the week with a social media campaign that will allow constituents to learn about maternal health disparities and advocate for reproductive and birth justice for Black women in Ohio virtually.
“As we celebrate Black Maternal Health Week 2021, I am proud of the work the OBMHC is accomplishing and the impact it will have on future generations. This is just the beginning, and Black women are claiming our power. Black women are claiming our resilience. Black women are claiming our liberation. We have been on the frontlines for every movement that has enacted intentional change, and now we are prioritizing our own freedom and right to live and thrive. The work is not done until we truly dismantle the oppressive institutions and policies that are killing Black lives,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), co-chair of the OBMHC.
Black Maternal Health Week this year comes as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues nationwide, leaving some pregnant people unsure about whether they should receive the vaccine. While there is limited data available on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people, recent studies suggest that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant and breastfeeding people, and may even offer some protection for babies.
The caucus’ social media campaign will include a day devoted to examining the impact of COVID-19 on Black maternal health.
Resolution sponsor Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) emphasized the need to continue taking action to address racial health disparities beyond this awareness week.
“Recognizing Black Maternal Health Week is just the first step of acknowledging the Black maternal health crisis in our state. Instead of spending $50 million to attract people to Ohio, we need to use some of that money to adequately fund resources so that pregnancy for Black women does not feel like a possible death sentence. The pregnancy related death rate for Black women in Ohio is two times that of white women. This rivals the rate in developing countries. That is particularly unacceptable, especially considering the second best hospital in the nation, Cleveland Clinic, exists right here in Ohio. Until racism is considered a factor in this issue, this problem will continue,” said Rep. Brent.
OBMHC has introduced several bills to improve Black maternal health outcomes in Ohio, including:
· House Bill 233 (Boyd,Crawley): Create the Pay Equity Hotline to address pay discrimination;
· HB 42 (Crawley): Enact the Save Our Mothers Act to improve standards of maternal healthcare and address cultural competency trainings;
· HB 142 (Crawley): To provide Medicaid reimbursement to birthing people in Ohio who utilize doula services.
In the 133rd General Assembly, Rep. Howse’s HB 11 to improve pre-natal and maternal health services was signed into law.
For more information and to see a schedule of virtual events for Black Maternal Health Week, follow @OhioBMHC on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.