WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As Congress considers several bills that aim to eliminate racial disparities in maternal care, it heard from a panel of health experts and parents Thursday.
In emotional testimony, Charles Johnson told lawmakers about the day his wife Kira died at a Los Angeles hospital after giving birth to their second child.
“She had been allowed to bleed and suffer needlessly,” Johnson said. “…For 10 hours while myself and my family and begged and pleaded for them simply to just help us.”
He said those pleas were lost in a health care system that doesn’t help everyone equally.
“(It was) lack of humanity that failed my wife and it’s failing Black mothers time and time again,” he said.
Johnson has since founded an advocacy group called 4Kira4Moms to support other Black mothers.
Studies show Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to have complications or die during childbirth.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., has experienced it firsthand with both her children. One of her sons was born four months premature, weighing only 1 pound, 3 ounces.
“I told (my doctor) that I was having severe pains and she said, ‘Oh no, you’re fine. You’re fine. Go home,'” Bush testified.
Democrats are pushing more than a dozen bills to tackle the issue, with plans to give implicit bias training to doctors and add funding for prenatal and postpartum care.
“These are necessary investments that will save lives,” Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., said.
The bills do not have any Republican cosponsors. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said he doubted racism is the core of the issue.
“We have lots of Black nurses and doctors,” he said. “These people in our inner cities and Black communities have been trapped in poverty.”
Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., encouraged the Biden administration to continue Trump-era initiatives to help all mothers.
“Continue the good work that has already begun on this area and build off of it,” he said.