By Nyesha Stone
Wisconsin’s black babies are dying at a faster rate compared to whites. Wisconsin has the highest gap between Black and white babies, according to CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
In 2013 through 2015, Wisconsin had the highest infant mortality rate for infants born to Black women in the nation at 14.3 deaths per 1,000 babies. These numbers are alarming and a cry for help, so U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore created legislation to increase care.
Under the bill H.R. 2751, known as the Mamas First Act, doulas and midwives will be provided under Medicaid coverage. The hope is that this will positively impact the maternal health crisis.
Doulas are nonmedical professionals that provide support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care. They assist in all reproduction aspects including support for women who are considering abortion. Midwives are clinical and experienced professional who practice the full scope of maternity care including delivering babies.
Providing resources to doulas and midwives such as access to funding, will increase their already huge impact on the Black and Hispanic mothers, who depend on doulas and midwives to have a successful pregnancy.
“We can have more babies to make it past the age of one,” said Moore on the statistic that a lot of Black infants don’t make it to their first birthday. “This legislation will have a real impact.”
President of DONA International, Ravae Sinclair, has been a doula for 17 years and she it feels good to know that others are beginning to understand what a doula is and their importance in the community.
“This momentum is incredible,” Sinclair said about the bill. She said every woman deserves the opportunity to a doula or midwife, and this bill will help make that happen.
According to Executive Director of African American Breastfeeding Network, Dalvery Blackwell, there is no greater investment than investing in our doulas and midwives. Along with Moore, Blackwell used doulas to help her through her pregnancy.
“My doula educated me on things I could do to enrich my birth,” said Blackwell. “She helped me to stay focused.”
Moore held a press conference to announce the bill at Sherman Phoenix earlier this week. She was accompanied by Sinclair, Blackwell, Mayor Tom Barrett, Lyanne Jordan, Co- Director of Doula Programming Maroon Calabash and Keetah Smith, Director of Community Clinical Linkages of UniteMKE.