During the Congressional hearings on the issue of Black maternal health, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush revealed she nearly lost both of her children during her pregnancies. In her emotional testimony, she shared how her concerns were ignored by doctors.
The hearing was called by the House Committee on Oversight Reform to examine how racism in health care affects the disparities in Black maternal mortality, which has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her testimony, the 44-year-old congresswoman from St. Louis, Missouri served as her own witness and recalled sitting in her doctor’s office when she was five months pregnant and seeing a sign on the wall that read: “If you feel like something is wrong, something is wrong. Tell your doctor.”
When Rep. Bush told her doctor she had intense abdominal pain, she said he brushed it off, and told her, “Oh no, you’re fine. You’re fine. Go home, and I’ll see you next time.”
A week later, at just 23 weeks gestation, Rep. Bush went into labor. Her son, Zion, was born weighing just over a pound, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“His ears were still in his head. His eyes were still fused shut. His fingers were smaller than rice, and his skin was translucent. We were told he had a zero percent chance of life,” Rep. Bush reflected. Zion was on a ventilator for a month and in intensive care for four.
Two months later, sixteen weeks into her second pregnancy, Rep. Bush went into early labor again. Another doctor told her the baby would be lost and wasn’t worth trying to save. She recalled him saying “‘Just go home. Let it abort. You can get pregnant again because that’s what you people do.’”
Rep. Bush’s sister, who was with her, threw a chair down the medical center’s hallway which prompted a doctor to assist. He put in a cervical cerclage, which helped to keep Angel in her mom’s womb. She was born healthy and is 20 years old today the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“This is what desperation looks like. That chair flying down a hallway,” Rep. Bush told the committee. “Every day, Black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth. Every day, Black women die because the system denies our humanity.”
Rep. Bush’s testimony further highlights the discrepancies in Black maternal health. The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. ranks 55th in the world. Black women giving birth in the U.S. are nearly three times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death than their white counterparts, data revealed. They experience higher rates of pregnancy complications, infant loss and miscarriage.
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also estimates that 60% of these deaths are preventable,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, chair of the committee. “America is failing Black people, and it does not have to be this way.”