Story at a glance
- Vice President Harris has recently spoken about her efforts to address racial inequalities in maternal care.
- CDC data noted that Black women are more likely to experience a fatal birth outcome than their counterparts.
- “Black women deserve to be heard, their voices deserve to be respected, and, like all people, they deserve to be treated with dignity,” she said at the conference.
Vice President Harris is calling for urgent action on addressing racial inequalities in health care, particularly when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth — paving new ground as a leader in the executive office to strongly focus on the issue.
In an exclusive interview with STAT News, Harris told reporters that she feels “it is my responsibility’’ as the 46th U.S. vice president “to stand up for everyone and especially those who have been historically left out or left behind.’’
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showcases a long-overlooked public health crisis in America; non-Hispanic Black mothers are more likely to experience pregnancy-related mortality than women of other races in the U.S., with about 42 deaths per every 100,000 live births.
Harris identifies systemic disparities and implicit biases as two major roadblocks to Black women receiving adequate maternity care.
These systemic inequalities are present in multiple institutions, including transportation, housing and nutrition.
Prior to her role as vice president, Harris introduced legislation to address this crisis as a senator. She introduced the Maternal Care Act to prevent institutional discrimination from influencing birth outcomes.
President Biden announced that the administration would incorporate this legislation into its budget, allocating $30 million toward implicit bias training for health care providers.
Additionally, extended insurance coverage and lower premiums are included in the measure, aiming to keep Black women and families covered during their pregnancies.
“This issue has been important to me for a long time, and it will remain a priority for me as Vice President,” she wrote. “I will keep working to get more providers trained, to increase investments in what we know impacts health outcomes, and to raise awareness.”
Last week, Harris headlined a roundtable discussion on black maternal health alongside domestic policy adviser and former ambassador Susan Rice.
“Black women deserve to be heard, their voices deserve to be respected, and, like all people, they deserve to be treated with dignity,” she said at the conference.