Apr 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Harris: U.S. must address maternal mortality "crisis"

Photo of Kamala Harris speaking at a podium on a stage, with the California state flag in the backdrop
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks after meeting with members of the maternal health care workforce at the University of California, San Francisco on April 21, 2022. Photo: Terry Schmitt/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vice President Harris said Thursday that the U.S. must confront its "crisis on the issue of maternal health," especially the disproportionate rate of maternal mortality among Black women.

Why it matters: Roughly 700 women die in the U.S. each year as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to white women, Black women are over three times more likely and Native women over two times as likely to die.

What she's saying: The U.S. is "facing a crisis on the issue of maternal health — it’s real," Harris said in remarks at the University of California, San Francisco. "Women in our nation are dying at a higher rate from pregnancy-related causes than in any other wealthy or developed nation in our world."

  • "And we know that for certain women the risk is much higher, regardless of income level, regardless of education level," she added, pointing to Black and Native women's maternal mortality rates.
  • "A big factor which contributes to these outcomes is systemic inequities," Harris added. "Differences in how people are treated based on who they are ... disparities that are often a matter of life and death."
  • "Women are the pillars of so many families and communities," she said. "Let us all continue to work together to ensure every woman and mother in our nation has the care she needs to thrive."

The big picture: More Black women have spoken out about their struggles with delivery in recent years, especially their challenges with racism in the health care system.

Worth noting: Harris, who convened the first-ever federal Maternal Health Day of Action last December, met with Cabinet officials last week to discuss the Biden administration's whole-of-government approach to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity.

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