Sen. Kamala Harris shines a bright light on the deplorable state of maternal health care for Black women

Why are sisters 243 percent more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications?

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Sen. Kamala Harris spoke truth to power on Wednesday and urged the country to focus on the underreported high maternal mortality rate in Black women.

“Black women in America are three to four times more like to die than white women because they choose to become mothers and want to raise those children to be productive members of society,” Harris said to the Huffington Post during an event hosted by the Center for American Progress. “That is a truth, uncomfortable though it may make us. It is a truth that must be spoken.”

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The speech comes as the U.S. already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and Black women are alarmingly 243 percent more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications. The U.S. is also one of just 13 countries where the rates of pregnancy-related illnesses and deaths are actually worse than they were 25 years ago. For example, in New York City, Black mothers are 12 times more likely to die  during maternal death than white mothers, according to the most recent data

“At its core, one of the biggest parts of the problem is that this is an issue that’s about race,” Harris said. “And this is an issue that’s also about implicit bias.”

This is not a random moment or a campaign position for Harris. In August, she introduced a bill called the Maternal CARE Act, which is aimed at reducing racial biases in maternal health care. The bill creates incentives for medical schools to educate students about racial bias in maternal health care so that it can be prevented in the future.

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“As a child, I became aware of and learned that these [gender] disparities exist,” Harris, a potential 2020 Presidential candidate, said. “We need to do to understand that women in the health care system must be given dignity.

“They must be listened to. They must be taken seriously. They must be given respect,” she added. “They must be given a sense of dignity about understanding that when they tell you something, listen. When they tell you what they need, listen. They know what they need when they tell you. Hear them.”