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Keke Palmer sat down with Madame Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about maternal mortality rates, abortions, and lack of overall support for mothers in the U.S.
On the latest episode of “Baby, This is Keke Palmer,” Palmer said she quickly realized that mothers don’t get the support they need. The podcast host had the luxury of a support system but still struggled after having her son Leodis. So, she wanted to talk to an expert, Harris, about that lack of support.
Maternal Health Crisis In America
The two recalled when they first discussed the maternal health crisis before Palmer became a mother and how it hits differently now that she has baby Leo.
“[Maternal health crisis] falls under the umbrella, for me, of just what is still our failures of the healthcare system as it relates to women’s healthcare. And that can be anything from fibroid care to breast cancer, to maternal health, to reproductive care and access to reproductive care. So, I think of it that way, and the majority of my career, I focused on the health, the safety, and well-being of children,” Harris said.
One of the most chilling yet frustrating facts is that the U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the world yet its incredibly behind in maternal health.
“We are one of the richest countries in the world, if not the richest. And we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality rates in the world. This is completely unacceptable, and when you look closely at the issue, Black women are three times more likely to die in connection to childbirth than other women,” Madame Vice President added.
Black Maternal Mortality Rate
Unfortunately, multiple factors contribute to Black women succumbing to childbirth-related deaths more than other women. For instance, systemic racism is the biggest issue.
“There are a lot of factors to be sure. But one of them…one of the biggest, has to do with the fact that she is a Black woman,” Harris explained. “And when she walks into that hospital, that clinic, or doctor’s office, she is not taken seriously.”
Harris expounded on the statement by pointing out that it doesn’t matter if a mother is educated or comes from an excellent socio-economic background. A wide range of Black women still face the challenges of avoidable healthcare outcomes. According to Harris, other stressors include lack of access to transportation or living in an area considered a “healthcare desert.”
Harris defines a “healthcare (or care) desert” as an area that lacks accessibility to quality healthcare. For instance, Black women living in rural areas of the South experience the effects of healthcare deserts.
“You look at Texas and Oklahoma…where half the counties in Texas and Oklahoma doesn’t even have an OB-GYN.”
Healthcare desert or not, Palmer and Harris agree that Black women should not die due to lack of accessibility. Hence, the Vice-President’s work centered around training healthcare professionals and understanding racial bias. Harris wants medical professionals to listen to Black women and respect their bodies.
Doula Care for Black Mothers
One solution for Black women to be heard is recruiting a doula. Doulas assist with a mother’s journey before, during, and after birth. More and more Black moms are working with doulas because of the safe space they provide; they advocate for their clients.
“[A doula] gives them a safe space where they are treated with dignity, where they are respected, and where they are listened to. That’s all so important,” Harris said.”Create a team, and your team will include your doctor and doula.”
To combat racial bias, Harris suggested that “doulas should be a part of the trainers for doctors around how to think about how they approach listening, respecting, and understanding their patients.”
Roe v. Wade
It’s been nearly a year since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“The highest court in our land just took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the women of America…from the people. What they did with that ruling is…they said, ‘A woman does not have the right to make decisions about her own body. A government will make those decisions about what happens to her body,'” Harris said.
Both Palmer and Harris called on everyone to stand up and fight against what’s happening with the abortion ban. That inlcudes peaceful protest, getting friends and family involved. But Harris acknowledged that it really comes down to elections.
“Elections matter on this because ultimately, the goal is…we need to pass legislation at the federal level that puts back in place the protection of Roe v. Wade,” she said.
According to Harris, there are 24 million people who can have children that live in states where abortion was banned.
Fans can listen to the full interview here.
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