City Hall, NY – Speaker Adrienne Adams submitted remarks for the City Council joint oversight hearing by the Committee on Health and Committee on Hospitals on “Maternal Health, Mortality, and Morbidity.”
The hearing takes place one day after the release of a medical research study found that pregnancy-related deaths in the United States increased 33 percent in 2020. Black and Latina women faced significantly higher mortality rates at 40 and 74 percent, respectively. The hearing also comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, putting women and birthing people at even greater risk.
Below is the Speaker’s submitted statement:
Good morning. I want to thank both Chairs – Council Member Lynn Schulman, Chair of the Committee on Health, and Council Member Mercedes Narcisse, Chair of the Committee on Hospitals – for having this important discussion on Maternal Health, Mortality, and Morbidity.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in an outrageous and dangerous decision, reversing decades of legal precedent, and ending the constitutionally protected right to an abortion. That decision is a manifestation of gender-based violence and will disproportionately impact Black people, people of color, low-income and marginalized communities. As a result of this ruling, almost half of the states in our country are expected to ban abortion. But laws that seek to limit or ban abortions do not put an end to all abortions—rather, people will be compelled to resort to secret, unsafe abortions, particularly those who cannot afford to travel or seek private care. Criminalizing abortion will not stop it from happening—it will simply make abortion less safe, which will ultimately have deadly consequences. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide and lead to an additional five million largely preventable disabilities. So, to put it plainly, this decision by the Supreme Court will cause women and birthing people to die. It is heartbreaking and enraging.
We knew, however, that this was coming. Following the leaked decision on Dobbs v. Jackson a few weeks ago, as anger, fear, and horror sunk in across the country, here in New York City, we got to work. While this decision is certainly a setback, it is not defeat. I, along with my fellow council members, are more determined than ever to fight for reproductive justice, and the basic human right to control our own bodies. We are convening a series of hearings on issues related to reproductive justice, and we will be hearing a package of legislation aimed at ensuring that New York remains a safe place for women and birthing people to access safe and affordable abortions, and maternal, sexual, and reproductive health care.
The Supreme Court’s decision is an attack on all women and birthing people, but Black women, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals will be disproportionately impacted by the court’s assault on our basic human rights.
Let us be clear, this is connected to our country’s history of racism and unequal access to essential rights, opportunities, and services, like housing, education, jobs, and healthcare.
Black women and birthing people already face a severe maternal mortality crisis, despite the fact that the field of obstetrics and gynecology only progressed because of nonconsensual, painful medical experimentation on enslaved Black women. Even in our city today, Black people are eight to twelve times more likely to die when giving birth than their white counterparts. They are also more likely to nearly die, or experience maternal morbidity, as are those who are Latina.
In fact, we know from a study released just yesterday that the maternal pregnancy-related deaths in the United States increased 33 percent in 2020. For Black and Latina women, increases were significantly higher at 40 and 74 percent, respectively.
This is simply unacceptable, and in New York City our job is to help advance changes that can eliminate these inequities. We know that last week’s Supreme Court decision will exacerbate these inequities, and New York can be a leader in helping to address this.
Today, we will be discussing maternal health, mortality, and morbidity, and how we can improve maternal health outcomes for people of color in New York City. We will be hearing a package of legislation on improving access to midwives and doulas, expanding public awareness, and other critical measures. I look forward to working with these committees and the administration to do whatever we can to pass this important legislation and make New York City a safe place for all women and birthing people.
Thank you to Chairs Schulman and Narcisse again for convening this important discussion, and to members of both committees for your work on these critical issues.