By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – On Thursday, October 18th at the Larkin Center at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, “Death by Delivery” explored the issue of why so many black women die during and after giving birth. In the United States, black women die of pregnancy-related complications four times the rate of white women according to the CDC. In Georgia, it is twelve times the rate. The film offered several reasons why black women have a higher rate of mortal maternal outcomes including resources not being spent on poor black women, stress, black women being given the wrong medication which leads to life threatening complications, and abusive nurses and doctors.
“It is very harrowing to have to… digest women’s experiences… Some of the things I hear and have to take in… actually through the Review Committee sometime keep me in bed the whole next day,” said Helena Grant who is the Director of Midwifery at New York University School of Medicine and is a member of the New York City Department of Health’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee.
Grant was one of the experts on the panel after the “Death by Delivery” screening which was led by Cheryl Hunter-Grant, Executive Director of the Lower Hudson Valley Perinatal Network and Vice President of the Perinatal Programs for the Children’s Health and Research Foundation. The other panelists were Dr. Martine Hackett and Zakiyah Williams.
“It’s something that we, in working in different hospitals and different environments in the DOH… you see a lot of different things and hear a lot of these stories… What is causing this? Really, a lot of it is racism,” said Williams, Adjunct Professor at Mount Saint Mary College and Lactation Consultant at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Dr. Hackett echoed those sentiments and looked at the issue from a historical perspective.
“We’re talking about the history of slavery in the United States and how in particular, women were treated and their children were seen as marketable… They were seen as profits… A woman to be a slave would have to be reproductively fertile to create many children was something that was valuable… But, as soon as that was no longer of value, it was no longer needed,” said Dr. Hackett who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Professions at Hofstra University and author of the book titled “Back to Sleep: Creation, Conflict, and Consequences of a Public Health Campaign.”
The audience filled with nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, doulas, midwives, psychologists, health professionals, and members of the community discussed the issues presented in the film as well as other issues and offered solutions including education, more providers of color, the use of doulas and midwives, and male involvement.
The screening was given by the Newburgh Healthy Black and Latinx Coalition (NHBLC) which is a network of health and human service organizations as well as community members that began two years ago. They desire to better the health and well-being of people in the community. The Coalition signed people up to join a Task Force to continue to address maternal care.
“We felt [the film] spoke to the work that we want to do in the community… We felt it was a disparity that was not being talked about,” said Planned Parenthood Director of Diversity, Inclusion, & Community Engagement Lana Williams-Scott. The screening was also inspired by Serena Williams whose C-section wound reopened due to coughing as a result of blood clots in her lungs after giving birth. Williams, who has a history of blood clots, had insisted that she needed a blood thinner, an IV with heparin, and a CT scan to test for clots, but was repeatedly ignored by nurses and doctors.