Wiley sees battling maternal mortality as key front in tearing down structural racism in New York City

Mayoral candidate Maya Wiley.
File photo/Mark Hallum

For mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, few things are as symptomatic of New York City’s inequality crisis as the staggering maternal mortality rate among women of color.

That New York City has one of the highest mortality rates among mothers in the U.S. is bad enough, but the rates are sharply higher among Black and Latinx women. Wiley cited city and federal health statistics which found that Black women gave birth to 23% of all babies born in New York City in 2017 — but suffered 55% of all maternal deaths that same year.

Every year, she noted, as many as 3,000 New York City women suffer from “severe maternal morbidity,” which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as “unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health” such as heavy bleeding, blood clots and even heart attacks or strokes.

Black and Latinx women are two to three times as likely to suffer such complications than white women — a sure sign, Wiley said, that the city’s healthcare system “has failed women of color.”

On Friday, Wiley unveiled an extensive plan to address maternal mortality in New York City through expanding health care services to communities of color and providing additional resources such as midwives and doulas to assist mothers in the childbirth process.

“We need to invest in the safety of New York City’s mothers,” said the civil rights attorney. “Being pregnant while Black should not be deadly. Untangling the web of structural racism and lifting the burden of gender oppression demands bold acts of governance and dedication to do what’s right.”

If elected mayor, Wiley said she would direct $4.35 million in city funds toward building birthing centers at NYC Health + Hospitals centers, and in areas where maternal mortality rates are high. The north shore of Staten Island would also get a freestanding location.

Wiley’s plan would also expand midwifery services within the city’s public hospital system; create a council of midwives and doulas to implement policies and develop strategies on maternal health; encourage and fund midwifery programs in the city’s nursing schools; and expand the Department of Health’s home visit program for new mothers.

The candidate also said she would fight for expanded paid family leave and temporary disability insurance for new mothers, and promote federal and state programs designed to protect mothers and ensure that they safely deliver their children.

More information on the plan can be found on Wiley’s campaign site, mayawileyformayor.com.

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