collins 030520Calls for more action to end maternal mortality crisis among women of color

CHICAGO – State Senator Jacqueline Collins again called for action to end the culture of prejudice, discrimination and dismissal in the medical community that has contributed to the death of women like New York mother Sha-Asia Washington, a Black woman who died in childbirth last week at age 26.

“The events of this year prove that we are in a fight for the life of every mother like Sha-Asia Washington on every front,” Collins said. “We are fighting for Black women like Patricia Frieson of Chicago, who was the first in Illinois to die of COVID-19. We are saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the streets, but we need it to mean something in the hospital and the doctor’s office.”

Collins, who sponsored the creation of the ongoing Task Force for Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans, renewed calls for further action. A separate measure last year focused on related issues, Senate Bill 1909, would have strengthened medical coverage and postpartum care for mothers. That plan easily passed the Illinois Senate, but stalled in the House and was eventually changed to unrelated legislation.

Meanwhile, women of color and their children are several times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, even when adjusting for all other socioeconomic factors. Nationwide, Black mothers die from pregnancy-related causes at a rate two to three times higher than white mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In the city of New York, mothers like Sha-Asia Washington are 12 times likelier to die in childbirth.

“The reasons I pushed for the creation of groups like the maternal mortality task force and the Illinois Council on Women and Girls are unfortunately clearer now in 2020 than ever,” Collins said. “We must refuse to allow Black mothers and babies to become a statistic.”