COVID, reproduction, & race

Why being Black and giving birth in New York during the pandemic is so dangerous.

NYT, August 6, 2020

By Emily Bobrow

The pandemic has laid bare the role race plays in the health of New Yorkers. In this highly segregated city, which has long had significant racial disparities in everything from cancer deaths to life expectancy, it is now well-established that Black and Latino New Yorkers die of Covid-19 at more than twice the rate that white people do.

It’s often difficult to know why any one patient receives what she believes to be substandard care. But the statistics show that pregnant women of color are more likely to face undesirable outcomes for reasons that public health experts are trying to understand.

Across the United States, Black women are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related causes than white women. In New York City, however, Black women are eight to 12 times more likely to die. Black infants in the city are also three times more likely to die than white newborns — a gap that is nearly 50 percent greater than the national average. Researchers say most of these deaths are preventable.

Whatever the underlying causes, it seems clear that Covid-19 is making things worse. “Black birthing people are already more likely to die, regardless of their income or education,” said Joia Crear-Perry, an obstetrician and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. “Now, with Covid, resources are scarce and hospitals don’t have what they need. Who bears the brunt? The people least likely to be listened to.”

By Sallie Han

Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Oneonta
Cultural, linguistic, medical anthropology; reproduction; gender; kinship; ethnography; United States. Former journalist (The Daily News, New York).

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