Posted on April 14, 2023

Racism Is Killing Black Mothers. CT Legislators Want Change

Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, April 13, 2023

In 2021, the U.S. saw a 40% spike in pregnancy-related deaths . Those deaths — 1,205 — weren’t spread uniformly across the population.

“When it comes to maternal death ratios, some women are at more risk than others. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women,” State Rep. Robyn A. Porter said at a ceremony Tuesday marking Black Maternal Health Week at the state Capitol.

In Connecticut, Porter said that women residing in cities, such as New Haven, Waterbury, and Hartford, are also much more likely to die.

“For instance, in the city where I live and represent, in New Haven, Black women are seven times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related complications and four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women,” she said.

The White House, which issued a proclamation Monday for Black Maternal Health Week, first recognized the designation in 2021 thanks to the advocacy work of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.


According to the CDC , the rate of infant mortality among Black babies in the United States was 10.6 per 1,000 live births in 2020.

State Rep. Treneé McGee said it is essential to “secure a stronger holistic future for birthing moms and their babies to not only survive, but to live.”

First, McGee called for those in the health care industry to believe Black women.


Porter and McGee support Senate Bill 986 , called “An Act Protecting Maternal Health” to improve maternal care.

The bill would establish an Infant Mortality Relief Program within the Department of Public Health to review medical records and other data on deaths of infants up to one year of age. A related committee would be charged with using the data to reduce health care disparities, identify associated factors and make recommendations to reduce the deaths. It would also create certification programs for doulas and freestanding birthing centers.

The bill would also create a midwifery working group to study and make recommendations on advancing choices for community birth care and the role of community midwives in addressing maternal and infant health disparities.

And it would require the Office of Early Childhood to develop and implement a statewide universal nurse home-visiting services program for all families with newborns in Connecticut.

State Sen. Saud Anwar, a supporter of the bill, said S.B. 986 is a priority for Gov. Ned Lamont and “much needed” to address the maternal health crisis.

“Race is not a biological risk factor. Race is a social construct. When you look at what it is doing to our state, in every aspect of the health [industry], including most exclusively on maternal health, we have a problem. And that’s what I’m talking about today — implicit bias. {snip}” he said.

Doulas 4 CT Coalition’s Director of Advocacy Cynthia Hayes said that she hopes the focus on Black maternal health extends beyond the designated week.

“We recognize that it’s not because of race that the disparities exist, it is because of structural and institutional racism. And we are trying desperately, especially our team, to promote legislation and policy change, so that we can make a difference here in our state,” she said.

Commissioner of the State’s Department of Social Services Andrea Barton Reeves said the department supports Black maternal health through Medicaid funding and matching federal funds.