Midwife: Lack of diversity in profession hurts pregnant women of color

Midwife Ebony Marcelle says there’s a lack of diversity in her profession — and it’s hurting pregnant women of color.

“We need more innovation, we need more diversity … just for example, midwives of color only make up about 2 percent of the profession,” Marcelle told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball on "Rising." “We know the value of midwifery care as a whole … especially when we’re talking about disempowered or disenfranchised women — this is the type of care they need.”

Marcelle, who is the Director of Midwifery at the Community of Hope, said midwifery was important, particularly among disenfranchised pregnant women.

“With black women, we know that regardless of the socioeconomic background, marital status, health status — they still have worse [maternal mortality] rates than white mothers,” Marcelle told Hill.TV.

The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world, with about 700 to 900 women dying each year from mostly preventable complications related to pregnancy, like blood loss and high blood pressure. 

Among developed countries, there are an average of 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization.

But African-American women across the country are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In some cities, that number is even higher. A ProPublica report found that in New York City, African-American mothers between 2006 and 2010 were 12 times more likely than white mothers to die from childbirth-related complications. That figure rose from 2001 to 2005.

Marcelle thinks this growing racial disparity among pregnant women of color needs to be addressed head-on.

“We have to have conversations about implicit bias trainings because part of it has just been going on for so long," Marcelle said. "We’re not talking about five years, 10 years — we’re talking about hundreds of years."

Bipartisan efforts to address the issue are underway.

In July, Reps. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyLawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits Mueller Day falls flat Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' MORE (D-Ill.) and Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDems push to revive Congress' tech office Bill allowing Congress to hire Dreamers advances House fails to override Trump veto on border wall MORE (R-Wash.) secured $2 million in funding for the CDC’s efforts in preventing maternal deaths through state-based Maternal Mortality Review Committees. 

Beutler has also introduced two separate bills — the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act and the Ending Maternal Mortality Act — to take concrete steps toward amending the issue.  

— Tess Bonn