By Brooke Freeland
The Women’s Fund at Austin Community Foundation uses education, conversation, and connection to elevate our community’s most urgent issues and the local organizations addressing them. Last month, the Women’s Fund hosted a screening of the documentary “Aftershock” to draw attention to ongoing maternal health disparities in Central Texas. The documentary follows two grieving fathers whose partners—Shamony Gibson and Amber Ray Rose Isaac—died due to preventable childbirth complications and medical negligence.
The screening culminated in a panel discussion with local experts about racial inequities within the maternal health care system in and beyond Travis County. The panel included Tiek Johnson, Program Director at Doula Trainings International; Dominique Adeniyi, Birth Programs Coordinator at Giving Austin Labor Support (GALS); and Kelenne Blake-Fallon, Executive Director at Black Mamas ATX. The latter two organizations are part of the Maternal Health Equity Collaborative (MHEC), a local network re-envisioning community care to eliminate racial inequities in maternal health outcomes.
Tiek, Dominique, and Kelenne led an emotional but critical conversation highlighting that, while we are fortunate to have strong local advocates and practitioners, much more work needs to be done. Maternal mortality and morbidity are community issues that are too often swept under the rug, as the following statistics are only a few we addressed during our conversation:
- In Texas, 80% of all pregnancy-related deaths are preventable
- In 2015 (the most recent data available), the maternal mortality rate in Texas was 18.4 per 1,000 deliveries
- Expanding access to postpartum care is critical as one-third of maternal mortality cases occur anywhere from one week to one year after birth
- Black women are at least three times more likely to die during or after pregnancy than white women
Seeing this data, you may be wondering: “What can I do to help?” You can use your time, talents, and treasure to make a difference in a variety of ways.
This season of giving, donate to the Women’s Fund and those working to eliminate maternal mortality and morbidity and the ongoing maternal health inequities for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in Travis County. A gift to the Women’s Fund ensures that we can continue to host conversations for change like this one and expands funding for organizations doing this important work. In 2022, the Women’s Fund was able to grant out $190,000 to organizations working in Women’s Health and Unintended Pregnancy Prevention. Your generosity helps increase the amount of unrestricted funding we can award in 2023.
You can also lend your voice to make an impact. To ensure that ACF and organizations doing this work can continue to direct our attention and support where it is most needed, you can contact your legislators to advocate for current data on these important issues to be published in our state’s maternal mortality report, which was delayed again this year.
Additionally, if you would like to learn more and support specific organizations serving our community, our panelists highlighted the following:
- Black Home Birth Matters ATX is a small group of BIPOC midwives in the Austin area raising funds to help make midwifery care accessible to individuals desiring home birth.
- Delivering Unto You offers a safe, empowering pregnancy and birth environment by providing midwifery care, education, and support for BIPOC families in and around Travis County.
- Luz de Atabey Midwifery Project seeks to improve the prenatal and postpartum experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, especially immigrants, refugees, and queer and trans families.
- Mama Sana Vibrant Woman provides free pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support to pregnant People of Color in Travis County.
- Partners in Parenting envisions a community where all parents have the support and connection they need to survive and thrive.
UPDATE: The biennial report from the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee was released on Dec. 15, 2022.
Brooke Freeland is a Women’s Fund investor and Steering Committee Chair-Elect.