Lawmakers tackle staggering number of Black child birth deaths

State lawmakers pledged Tuesday during Black Maternal Health Week to address the crisis.

John Craven

Apr 11, 2023, 9:35 PM

Updated 404 days ago


In Connecticut, a Black mother is up to seven times more likely to die giving birth than her white countxerparts. State lawmakers pledged Tuesday during Black Maternal Health Week to address the crisis.
“Many of these deaths and illnesses are preventable,” said state Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven).
News 12 began investigating this epidemic three years ago. Khalil Carter told News 12 that his wife died of complications from a cesarean section. Carter said hospital staff brushed aside his wife's complaints about unusual pains.
“Who's going to be held accountable for this?” Carter said in 2020. “This is murder.”
Black lawmakers said it's time for legislative changes with a new bill from Gov. Ned Lamont. Before birth, it creates a new certification for doulas, nonmedical pregnancy guides who can advocate for patients.
“Studies show that Black women are often dismissed or ignored, and hospitals and other health care settings, even as they suffer from severe injuries, pregnancy complications, and just asking for help,” said Vanessa Dorantes, the first Black woman to head the Department of Children and Families.
During birth, the proposal creates new free-standing birthing centers and looks at expanding midwives. Both measures hope to address a maternity ward shortage in Connecticut.
But the Connecticut Hospital Association raised “significant concerns” about new birthing centers, including who could own them and work at them.
“There is not enough structure, regulation, or clinical and administrative guidance in place yet,” CHA said in written testimony opposing the bill. “Before any birthing center is approved, clinical thresholds and protocols, mandatory clinical guidelines, stakeholder review, public oversight, and transparency must be in place.”
CHA noted that birthing centers in neighboring states are subject to strict regulations.
After birth, the bill guarantees an in-home nursing visit for all newborns, but only “within available appropriations.” It’s based on a pilot program in Bridgeport.
The bill would also create a new Infant Mortality Review Program to review medical records and compile data on deaths of children under 1 year old.
Legislators and advocates said the proposal is an important start.
“The one thing that I would encourage everyone to do is to listen to – and not only listen to, but trust – Black women,” said state Rep. Treneé McGee (D-West Haven).
Meantime, Khalil Carter is left raising a little girl on his own.
“I came in there with a wife,” he said. “I left there with a baby and a death certificate.”
The maternal health bill recently cleared the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee. The state Senate expects to vote on it in the next few weeks.

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