Elizabeth Warren unveils plan to reduce black maternal mortality rates

Black women in America are over three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or its attendant complications.

At the She the People forum in Houston, Texas, a battery of Democratic presidential hopefuls addressed a crowd of 2,000 people, predominantly women of color, to make the case for their candidacies.

As is her standard practice, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrived with a policy proposal in hand. Some of her opponents have declined to get into the specifics of what they’d actually do should they win the presidency: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for instance, has scoffed at the idea that he should have posted literally any policy positions on his website — do Americans even want to hear about policy when they could be watching someone say “I’ve forgotten so much Norwegian” in Norwegian? Could go either way. 

Meanwhile, Warren has rolled out one policy after another after another, like scarves pulled from a magician’s sleeve. Her latest, revealed at She The People, is a plan to address black maternal mortality rates.

In the United States, black women are more than three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or complications stemming from pregnancy. Ours is a nation with one of the highest maternal mortality rates on the face of the Earth, and is one of just 13 countries where the rate of pregnancy-related illness and death is worse than it was a quarter-century ago. The headline of a recent ProPublica installment in an ongoing series on maternal mortality rates in America says it all: “Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth.”

Warren wants “to speak to hospitals… in the language they understand: money.”

She went on:

“The hospitals are just going to get a lump of money, and if they bring down those maternal mortality rates, then they get a bonus, and if they don’t, then they’re going to have money taken away from them. We’ve got to have change, and we’ve got to have change now.”  

The root of the problem, Warren said, based on “the best studies that I’ve seen,” is “prejudice. Doctors and nurses don’t hear African American women’s medical issues the same way as they hear the same things from white women.”

Warren wasn’t the only candidate at the forum to address black maternal mortality rates; Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) did as well. Harris introduced a bill last year called the Maternal CARE Act, designed to reduce racial prejudice in maternal health care by incentivizing racial bias education in medical schools, specifically focused on maternal health care. 


“Health equity for black women can only happen if we recognize and address persistent biases in our health system,” Harris said at the time. Last year, she introduced a resolution designating April 11 – 17 as Black Maternal Health Week, an acknowledgment of black maternal mortality rates as a public health crisis.