Monday, May 23, 2022
Black Mothers Matter: The Social, Political and Legal Determinants of Black Maternal Health across the Lifespan
Liz Tobin-Tyler (Brown University), Black Mothers Matter: The Social, Political and Legal Determinants of Black Maternal Health across the Lifespan, 25 J. Health Care L. & Pol’y 49 (2022):
Black maternal health disparities have existed for decades. But with America’s recent “racial reckoning,” the public health and medical communities are increasingly focused on understanding the pathways that lead to higher rates of Black maternal morbidity and mortality and policymakers are exploring legal and policy approaches to reducing inequities. While most of the attention is on reducing racial disparities in mortality during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, this article investigates the problem from a life course perspective. Applying public health and medical literature detailing the role allostatic load and weathering in adult and maternal health, I examine how multiple, compounding and intersecting social, political and legal structures drive poor health outcomes for Black mothers. These structures include the particular social status of Black mothers in American history and society, the political disempowerment and scapegoating of Black mothers that has shaped harmful public policies, and the poorly designed and enforced laws and systems that not only fail to protect Black mothers from discrimination but, at times, exacerbate it. I review and assess current state and federal legal and policy proposals aimed at addressing the Black maternal health crisis and propose the need for a comprehensive multisectoral approach.