Giving Compass' Take:
- Lauren Sausser highlights the increasingly poor outcomes for Black mothers and infants in the American South.
- What role can you play in improving reproductive healthcare, particularly for marginalized communities?
- Read about how philanthropy can engage in reproductive justice efforts.
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O’laysha Davis was a few weeks shy of her due date when in mid-August she decided it was time to switch doctors.
Davis had planned to give birth at a small community hospital about 20 minutes from her home in North Charleston, South Carolina. But that changed when her medical team started repeatedly calling her cellphone and pressuring her to come to the hospital and deliver the baby.
Davis said she’d told her doctor on more than one occasion that she was opposed to inducing labor early. Eventually, she reached her wits’ end.
“It was ridiculous,” said Davis, 33. “I don’t feel heard most of the time. I feel like it’s their way or no way, you know? Like you don’t have a choice.”
Davis had given birth twice before and knew from experience that Black women, like herself, and their infants face higher health risks during pregnancy and childbirth. In 2021, Davis lost a baby in the womb after a dangerous pregnancy complication in her first trimester.
“I was very fearful that the same thing would happen,” Davis said when she found out in late 2022 that she was pregnant again.
Her fears weren’t unfounded. Across South Carolina, Black infant and pregnancy-related deaths are troubling. About an hour and a half northwest of Charleston in Orangeburg County, the infant death rate was the highest in the state in 2021. Higher, in fact, than it was 50 years earlier in 1971, according to data KFF Health News obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request from the state health department. All but one of the 17 infants who died in 2021 in Orangeburg was Black.
Statistics like this scared Davis. But it was a horror story out of Georgia that really caught her attention: In July, a Black infant was decapitated during delivery by an obstetrician who allegedly used excessive force. Davis was eight months pregnant when the news broke.
“Something’s terribly wrong,” she recalled thinking.
Things are poised to get worse. More than one year after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, allowing state legislatures to outlaw abortion, most states in the South have passed either full or partial bans. Both research and preliminary data suggest this will further jeopardize Black pregnant people and babies.
Read the full article about Black infant and pregnancy-related deaths by Lauren Sausser at The 19th.