Georgia is not only ground zero for voter suppression, but it is also ground zero for an enduring healthcare crisis that disproportionately affects Black women—maternal mortality. While Senate and House Republicans in Georgia continue to devise new schemes to suppress access to the ballot box, Black women continue to be at risk of healthcare disparities simply because we exist. The CDC reports that Black women in Georgia are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women nationally. What is more chilling is that of the nation’s fifty states, Georgia has the second-highest maternal mortality rate. Further, CDC data reveals that Georgia’s maternal death rate reached 66.3 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2013 to 2017, as opposed to the national maternal death rate of 29.6. What further complicates this public health crisis is that Black women living in rural Georgia towns are even more vulnerable as access to an OB/GYN, hospitals, and quality healthcare overall are limited. Statewide 75 of Georgia’s 159 counties have no OB/GYN. Additionally, 405,000 Georgia women of reproductive age remained uninsured in 2017. These statistics coupled with the rising costs of reproductive care situate maternal mortality among Black Georgian women as a healthcare crisis, a human rights issue, and a moral dilemma.
Georgians across the state should be furious. Because rather than prioritizing and investing in the lives of women—specifically Black women—and their children, Republican legislators in Georgia continue to prove that Black women are invisible because Black women—to them—are not human. Humans feel pain. But Black women—according to Republican legislators who walk in the spirit and tradition of J. Marion Sims, the father of modern gynecology—do not feel pain. Therefore, there is no need to hear the screams of Black women who suffer from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. There is no need to fund quality healthcare and expand access to quality prenatal and postpartum healthcare. While many would find the statistics related to maternal mortality among Black women appalling and abnormal, I would suggest that Georgia is simply demonstrating who and what this state and country have always been to Black people—a land possessed with a spirit determined to choke the life out Black people any and every way it can.
The common-sense solution to these issues would come by way of policy change. However, Georgia lawmakers, specifically Republicans, are invested in silencing Black voices; and their renewed efforts to suppress the vote should, therefore, not be seen as an issue separate from that of maternal mortality. These lawmakers are looking to hold on to their political power and maintain white supremacy at any cost. Such a thirst for power that is quenched by Black pain, suffering, and death should not go unchecked. Black women in Georgia like myself should not base their decision to have a child on the fear that we may not make it through the pregnancy or out of the maternity ward alive. Our bodies should not suffer because we either can’t afford to visit the doctor or the nearest OB/GYN is hundreds of miles away. We deserve to live in a country and a state that values our health. So, while Republican lawmakers continue to imagine new ways to suppress the vote, everyone in this state and across this nation committed to justice, equity, and love must use our vote, organize, resist, and tap into a spirit of revolution that declares life as holy and sacred.
Submitted by Rev. Amber Lowe-Woodfork