Congresswoman Cori Bush opens up on mistreatment, nearly losing two babies

“Every day, Black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth" says Bush, a freshman Democrat from St. Louis

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A congressional committee examining the Black maternal health crisis heard emotional testimony from one of the committee’s own members.

Democrat Cori Bush of St. Louis on Thursday described how she nearly lost the lives of her two children two decades ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Every day, Black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth,” Bush said. “Every day, Black women die because the system denies our humanity.”

The hearing in Washington was called by the House Committee on Oversight Reform to examine how racism in health care affects disparities in Black maternal mortality.

In this Feb. 4, 2021 file photo, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., arrives at the House chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Bush of St. Louis, gave emotional testimony Thursday, May 6, to a congressional committee examining the Black maternal health crisis. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite File)

Bush, 44, recalled sitting in her doctor’s office when she was five months pregnant and telling her doctor about severe abdominal pain. The doctor was dismissive.

A week later, at just 23 weeks gestation, Bush went into labor. Her son, Zion, was born weighing just over a pound (0.45 kilograms). Bush was told he had “zero percent chance of life.”

READ MORE: Black maternal health disparity gets new focus after Biden proclamation

Zion was on a ventilator for a month and in intensive care for four.

When Bush was pregnant again, she went into preterm labor at 16 weeks gestation. Another doctor told her she was going to lose the baby.

“I said, ‘No, you have to do something,’” Bush said. “But he was adamant, and he said, ‘Just go home. Let it abort. You can get pregnant again because that’s what you people do.’”

Bush’s sister was with her. They didn’t know what to do, so her sister threw a chair down the hallway. Nurses came running and put Bush on a stretcher, prompting actions that saved the baby, Angel.

READ MORE: Love Delivered aims to educate and empower expectant Black women

Angel is now 20, and Zion is 21.

Black women giving birth in the U.S. are nearly three times more likely to experience pregnancy-related death than their white counterparts, and experience higher rates of pregnancy complications, infant loss and miscarriage.

Disparities are worse in Missouri. The state’s latest annual report from 2017 showed Black women were four times more likely to die than white women, and 80% of those deaths were found to be preventable.

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