Black Mothers Matter: Racism and Childbirth in America (highlights)

Black Mothers Matter: Racism and Childbirth in America (highlights)


We went in at 2:00 p.m. for was
expected to be a routine scheduled C-section. I was the one that noticed the
blood in my wife’s catheter, brought it to the attention of the staff at
Cedars-Sinai shortly after 4:00. It wasn’t until after midnight that they finally
took Kira back to surgery. When they opened Kira up, there were three and a half liters of blood in her abdomen and her heart stopped immediately, there was nothing they could do to bring her back. And I have to the ask question, would that have happened
if I was not African-American. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the
developed world. In the U.S., the risk of pregnancy related deaths for black women
is three to four times higher than those of white women. So what is going on? CHARLES: When
this first happened to us, I was like a lot of Americans. I thought that this
didn’t happen to women in the United States, I thought it was something that
happened in the Dark Ages. It highlights a chronic and pervasive problem of not
trusting black women, of not listening to black women and valuing black life and
black mothers and black births. I always akin the health care system to law
enforcement. We racially profile. People ask me all the time, how does that show
up in health services provision? I would say if you don’t listen to people and
don’t believe them, you might be in a position not to recognize the signs and
symptoms of deterioration. And there’s also a bias especially with I think
black women or women of color in general that we are able to tolerate pain more. I also think there’s a narrative that would come to pregnancy older and sicker
and fatter and that’s just not true. And this is the thing that haunts me now. I
think maybe, what if I had raised my voice, what if I had slammed on the
counter? But the entire time I was thinking, “I’ve got to stay calm because
if I raise my voice then as an African American male I become seen as a threat.” The Fox medical drama “The Resident” actually did an episode based on
Charles’ story. Chris Bessounian and Tiana Langham who I co-wrote this episode with,
brought me the story of Charles and Kira and we were instantly moved beyond words. CHARLES: I’m so grateful to Amy Holden Jones and the entire team at Fox for just really
pulling their talents into making this something that would do not only Kira
justice, but the thousands of mothers that we’ve lost. My hope and my prayer is
that by sharing her story it will have an impact so the one my sons are ready
to have children, we’ll talk about this maternal mortality crisis in the
historical context. MONICA: Sixty percent of these deaths are considered to be preventable, so
there’s actually some hope that there’s something we can do about it.
Half the births in the United States are covered by public insurance or what we
call Medicaid. Half the births. So as taxpayers and individuals who are
invested in maternal health care, we should expect to see better outcomes. KAREN: Every person who chooses to continue their pregnancy into birth deserves to
be treated with the utmost respect and dignity regardless of their background,
their individual characteristics, their community. We just need political will
and efforts of many many individuals working on these issues. CHARLES: The reality is
that people in this country who care about mothers and babies are the largest
constituency there is, because there are two types of people in our country.
Either you are a mama or you got one. Right? There is no path to the White
House in 2020 or beyond without a clear comprehensive plan for what you are
going to do to address the maternal mortality crisis. KAREN: We need you all to raise your voices and demand it. When I think about what Hollywood can do,
this is the first step. Opening up the discourse, talking about these things,
bringing experts in to shine new light on it and to give the facts. Hollywood tells stories and everybody sees them, believes them, has an emotional connection. There’s a lot of data about how that’s been able to move a lot of
opinions. You’re able to dramatize and elevate these already very dramatic
stories and bring them to different people. What we try to do on “The Resident”
is to tell stories about human beings we care about and address issues within the
medical environment. Hollywood, Health & Society has been a great resource for us.
They help link us to doctors, the doctors help advise us and any particular
specialty that we’re working on in a story. It’s actually a spectacular
resource that is freely available to all writers. CHARLES: I’m so grateful for Hollywood, Health & Society for addressing this topic. It’s so critical, it’s so instrumental. This is a
powerful opportunity and we have to seize it not only for this issue for other issues
that make our world a better place.

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