‘Save Black mothers’ lives’: Labour urges government to commit to closing maternal mortality gap

Exclusive: MPs will debate maternal health gap later on Monday

Nadine White@nadine_writes
Tuesday 20 April 2021 13:11

The Labour Party will call on the government to commit to a target of ending the Black maternal mortality gap during a landmark debate about the topic later on Monday.

This comes as shocking figures show Black women are over four times more likely than white women to die during or after pregnancy or childbirth in the UK.    

MPs will debate a petition relating to Black maternal healthcare and mortality.

Scheduled to take place at 6.15pm on Monday evening, the session will be led by Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP.

The petition, launched by campaigning group FivexMore, received over 187,000 signatures in June as Black Lives Matter protests swept across the UK following the death of George Floyd.

Marsha De Cordova, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, will urge ministers to prioritise reducing maternal health inequalities.

During the debate, Ms Cordova will say: “The government must take action to address maternal health inequalities for Black, Asian and ethnic minority women.

“We need a national strategy to tackle health inequality as a matter of urgency which must include a commitment to eradicate the mortality gap between Black and white women.”

The shadow minister will highlight the Conservative Party’s failure to set any targets to eradicate the mortality gap over the past decade.

In 2016-18 there were 34 deaths per 100,000 for Black women and, during the same period, 15 Asian women died among every 100,000 giving birth, compared with eight white women.

The call to action builds on recommendations made in The Doreen Lawrence Review, An Avoidable Crisis, which called for clear ministerial accountability to close the gaps in negative health outcomes, a review of clinical training to ensure all ethnicities get the best medical care and improved training for all health and care staff to tackle racism, unconscious bias and ensure good understanding of cultural differences.

Speaking ahead of the debate, the Shadow Equalities Minister told The Independent: “It is totally unacceptable that the government have not yet set a target to close the gaps in maternal mortality in the UK.

“We have known about these fatal inequalities for years but nothing has been done by Ministers to tackle this.

“Black women have worked hard to get this petition into parliament and we need to use this opportunity.

“We need urgent action to tackle health inequalities and structural racism, and to ensure black and ethnic minority women get the treatment they deserve through their pregnancies.”

The MP for Battersea added: “We cannot afford for this to not be a priority.”

Sandra Igwe, Co-chair of the National Inquiry into Racial Injustice in Maternity Care and Founder of The Motherhood Group, a social enterprise for Black mothers, said: “Many of the mothers in our network feel ignored and judged by the colour of their skin. When they are in pain it is often passed off as ‘having an attitude’ or ‘being aggressive. There needs to be better training for clinicians around unconscious bias, improved accountability and clearer guidelines for reporting.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The colour of a woman’s skin should have no impact on her or her baby’s health and we are committed to tackling disparities and making sure all women get the right support and best possible maternity care.

“Through our NHS Long Term Plan, at least three quarters of pregnant Black, Asian and minority ethnic women will receive care from the same midwives during pregnancy and after they give birth by 2024.

“We have also launched a call for evidence for the first government-led Women’s Health Strategy, to address health inequalities across the whole health and care system. We urge all women to come forward and share their experiences, so we can create a system that works for everyone.”

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