Protecting Black women and people is an act of justice that is centuries overdue. Harmful health outcomes, police brutality, misogynoir, and laws that disproportionately target and separate Black families from one another are a few examples of why this protection is needed. These examples do not only impact Black and Indigenous families, but they impact us in ways that have been intentionally unceasing in purpose and practice, for centuries. The system is not broken it was built this way. So, what now? 

In 2021 New Mexico is looking a little bit different than it has in the past. SB96 which passed in the NM 2021 legislative session was deeply influenced by the advocacy of Black and Indigenous women and non-binary led organizations and the content of SB96 reflects that with grace and intersectionality. Likewise, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s BMHW Proclamation centers community, acknowledges health inequities and echoes national directives to prioritize Black maternal health. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Black Maternal Health Week Proclamation was released just days after President Biden’s with both calling upon us all to actively de-construct racism in medicine, through the thought leadership of Black Mamas and the communities most impacted by disparate maternal health outcomes. Both proclamations amplify the voices of Black mamas and center the values and traditions of the reproductive justice movement, which was founded by Black women in response to racism. Both proclamations also acknowledge the racist origins of health inequities in our country. 

While all families everywhere have a human right to good health outcomes, and safe lives, high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among Black and Indigenous women and birthing people call for a different level of awareness and culture shift to re-root power in community voice, expertise, and solution design. Racism in policy and practice deeply impact the health outcomes of BIPOC families, especially the wellbeing of our mamas, infants, and families. Both SB 96 and the local and national Black Maternal Health Week proclamations are telling us that we must, and can, do better.  Doing better includes: more seats at the table, more voices with those seats, and more power with those voices for the communities most impacted, which are Black and Indigenous women and birthing people when it comes to maternal health outcomes in the US.

As we move forward let us remember that no crafting of, or changes to maternal health policy or practice, can authentically be made in the state of New Mexico, or the United States of America, without Black and Indigenous women-led organizations and Black and Indigenous birthing people at the table not as tokens but with voice, and in positions of power. Racism is going out of fashion and the invisibility and dismissal of Black and Indigenous people, as thought, policy and organization leaders, is no longer acceptable in an equity based world that really is ready to save lives.

NMProclamation: https://www.facebook.com/newmexicobirthequitycollaborative/photos/a.100753164847827/286247209631754/

National Proclamation: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/13/a-proclamation-on-black-maternal-health-week-2021/?fbclid=IwAR2eoeufTmxE0ddlNTqEgWDX_nrxoVy4X4oX3_TPe6Dfl1cLsexZYsyPxEg