Lifting up secular health care for Black Maternal Health Week

 Black Racial Justice
The Freedom From Religion Foundation salutes Black Maternal Health Week, which is taking place April 11-17. The week was first recognized by the White House last year. 

Secular values align with Reproductive Justice, because when religiously rooted legislation denies and restricts abortion care, Reproductive Justice is compromised. Reproductive Justice is a framework coined in June 1994 by Black women involved in the reproductive health and rights movement and defined by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective as the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” 

Entanglements between religion and health care create disproportionate problems for Black women in America. Catholic hospitals and tax-funded crisis pregnancy centers deny reproductive health care and spread disinformation — disparities disproportionately targeting Black communities.

The Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortion care for low-income patients otherwise eligible for medical assistance, likewise means low-income racial minorities, such as Black and Hispanic women, are disproportionately denied their constitutional right to end unwanted pregnancies. 

Reproductive restrictions in Catholic hospitals are insidious and anti-women. Black women historically could be threatened with loss of government benefits should they refuse sterilization. Between 1929 and 1976, more than 7,000 people — largely poor, Black and disabled — were forcibly sterilized or coerced into sterilizations. 

Anti-abortion and reproductive restrictions are counter to Reproductive Justice. They disproportionately impact communities of color, especially Black communities. Black maternal mortality is 2.5 times higher than for whites. Additionally, Black women are less likely to have access to quality prenatal care. These statistics hold true even when adjusting for socioeconomic class or education.

Black Maternal Health Week serves many purposes, including providing a “national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice,” deepening the “national conversation about Black maternal health” and enhancing “community organizing on Black maternal health.”

Let’s work toward a world of true reproductive and racial equity — free from religious influence in our laws and policies. 

(Learn more about Black Maternal Health Week and Black Mamas Matter Alliance here.)

Please share this link on social media. Consider writing your own online post or letter to the editor on this topic to further influence public opinion. Thank you.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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