Black Women Birthing Justice, a collective of African-American, African, Caribbean and multiracial women, conducted a five-year community-based research project to document the pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum experiences of over 100 Black women ages 17 to 46. Their report has been published by Praeclarus Press.

Battling Over Birth: Black Women and the Maternal Health Care Crisis uncovers the existence of a culture of fear and coercion in maternity care for women of color.

The research reveals a shameful racial disparity:

  • Black babies are twice as likely to die within their first year than White babies.
  • Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than White women.

The grassroots organization Black Women Birthing Justice aims to address the inequities in health care for Black mothers and their babies and to build trust to counter the current lack of respect.

Participants in the project in California reported being:

  • pressured into unwanted medical procedures
  • denied the right to provide full informed consent
  • denied the right to birth at home
  • denied the right to move, squat or push during labor.

Zeinabou Annie Chitembure, who was fortunate enough to have the birth she wanted, said:

“I just want women to regain their power and understand the strength we possess.”

Sacha Blackburne

“Too often, public health policy is created without listening to the voices of those who are most affected,” said Chinyere Oparah, Professor of Ethnic Studies at Mills College and co-author of the report. The report notes that the existence of a significant network of Black community midwives, home birth mothers and doulas has been completely overlooked. 

“Black women know what’s wrong with our maternal health-care system, but no-one is listening to what they have to say. This community-driven research aims to change that.”

DONA International’s review of Battling Over Birth

Find Black Women Birthing Justice on Facebook.

Feature image with title by Kailee Riches Photography.

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