Virginia lawmakers pushing for legislation that addresses Black maternal mortality: 'Real lives are at risk'

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Posted at 6:23 PM, Apr 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 11:40:20-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The death of Krystal Anderson, a former cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, yoga instructor, and University of Richmond graduate, drew national attention.

Anderson's family says she died from sepsis after giving birth to her stillborn daughter.

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Krystal Anderson

Virginia Delegate Destiny LeVere-Bolling was friends with Anderson and said her story reminds her of her own. Last August, Bolling said her son was born stillborn five months into her pregnancy.

“When I called and asked the questions, the doctor on call told me to lie down, drink water, and take Tylenol. When it came down to my water breaking and finally having to go to the hospital, they told me this could have been prevented had someone given you. . ." Levere-Bolling said trailing off briefly with emotion, "the right care.”

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Destiny Levere-Bolling

Experiences like hers are all too common for Black mothers, advocates said. Advocates and lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday ahead of Black Maternal Health Week in Virginia, which will be officially held April 11 to 17 every year following action by the General Assembly.

"Black women are not listened to when we say that we have a problem. A lot of times, it’s ignored or told, ‘Oh that’s normal,’ and they’re dismissed and that’s why they’re not catching a lot of things," said Kenda Sutton-El, the founder of Birth in Color, a Richmond based organization that worked for years to get Black Maternal Health Week recognized by the state.

The C.D.C. reports that Black mothers are three times more likely to die from childbirth complications compared to white mothers, and the infant mortality rate for Black babies is twice as high.

“It has been trying to get the resources that we need so that healthcare providers, our deeply rooted systems that are failing Black mothers and their babies, are corrected because the data continues to show us too many are dying at higher rates than anyone else," said Senator Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg).

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Virginia State Senator Lashresce Aird

“We say that we’re all created equally, but the systems and institutions, unfortunately, don’t see us equally," said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

Beyond bringing attention to the problem, advocates hope to advance efforts to address it. Things like requiring unconscious bias training for medical professionals or requiring health insurance providers to cover doula services.

Language in the state budget, Aird said, would provide funding for the Chief Medical Examiner's Office to collect data on Black maternal health, and a bill that passed the legislature would expand the morality and morbidity review team.

“If we’re going to continue to ignore it, then these proclamations and resolutions don’t mean anything. But we are hopeful these will set the standard of what needs to be done in the state of Virginia," Sutton-El said.

"When we talk about Black Maternal Health Week, it’s not just black and white words on a piece of paper. There are real lives at risk, and we know that firsthand. There are thousands of women across Virginia who endure this every day, so it’s time for change," LeVere-Bolling said.

You can learn more about Birth in Color here. More information on National Black Maternal Health Week can be found here.

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