Here’s the good news: More and more politicians are taking note of the disturbing uptick in the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. and presenting legislation to fight it — especially the grim statistics for pregnancy-correlated deaths of black women. Here’s the bad news: Native American women have been abandoned in these discussions and initiatives.
But Rep. Deb Haaland — a Native American Congresswoman — is championing indigenous women in the U.S. “It’s been a long road for Native people, Native women, and so I feel like those of us who know what it’s like, we all need to stick together,” Rep. Haaland announced on Tuesday in D.C., at the first Mama’s March policy roundtable. The roundtable was headed up by the Center for American Progress, the National Women’s Law Center, and Mothering Justice — and was created to take on issues that affect mothers of color: poverty, affordable child care, paid leave and sick time off, and more.
Haaland came out swinging on behalf of her Native population. “We need to make sure that we are echoing our voices and finding ways to make sure people know and understand. When we talk about the mortality rate for African American women and mothers, we should also be talking about the rate for Native American women,” she said.
The statistics are upsetting, and rarely mentioned in the news: Native American and Alaskan Native moms, compared to white women, are 2.5 more times likely to perish from complications connected to pregnancy. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) May 12, 2019
Rep. Haaland is shining light on this underserved community. A mom herself, she is also a descendant of indigenous people who, in the 13th century, migrated to the Pueblo of Laguna.
Despite being a new congresswoman — and one of the amazing stories of the historic 2018 midterm elections — Haaland is all about family.
“When I go home to Laguna, yes, I have to wash dishes. I have to cook for my mom. I have to do all of those things, because I’m not just a member of Congress. I’m also a daughter. I’m also a mother. So when my daughter gets sick, I still have an obligation to take care of her, to make her soup, to do whatever it is. You don’t stop being yourself just because you get elected to something,” Haaland told Romper.
Haaland’s own family history compels her to find better solutions for Native women. “Just within my family, there have been so many experiences of people not getting the health care they need,” Haaland continued. “My aunt, when she had her first child at the Indian Health Service in Winslow, Arizona… it was a terrible, terrible, horrifying experience. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else, so I need to keep making sure that I’m listening to those stories, that I’m moving them forward so we don’t go back where we were before.”
We commend Rep. Haaland and her determination, as well as other representatives who have maternal mortality issues in their sights. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a plan for fighting the rising mortality rate in mothers in our country. Sen. Kamala Harris presented the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act to lessen racial inequalities in maternal morbidity rates. And Senator Corey Booker offered a bill aimed directly at stopping pregnancy deaths for black women. (It is worth noting that all three senators are Democrats. Cough.)