Health care discrimination is a big problem in the United States.
When it comes to health care, there is a double standard for Black women that goes beyond access or affordability. Doctors often assume Black women are lying about symptoms or exaggerating them. They assume this even when white women present with similar symptoms. Because of health care discrimination, Black women are three times more likely to die from giving birth than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the past few years, celebrities have been bringing awareness to healthcare discrimination related to Black maternal mortality. Recently, actress Jada Pinkett Smith discussed the issue on Red Table Talk.
Her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, daughter Willow Smith and social justice leader Tamika Mallory joined the conversation. Guest Tressie McMillan Cottom talked about a doctor dismissing her pain and bleeding four months into her pregnancy. She later went back to the hospital, where an ultrasound revealed two large tumors. Cottom later gave birth to her daughter, who died shortly after. "At every step of the process, no one really took seriously that I knew what was happening to me," she said.
During a May 6 hearing hosted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, actress Tatyana Ali shared her story of a difficult labor. She described when her baby had been crowned for hours and hospital staff repeatedly tried using suction to pull him out.
She screamed for them to stop. "Without warning, one doctor pushed my baby all the way back inside me," Ali said. She recalled screaming in pain and losing consciousness. Despite the trauma, she and her son made it through delivery.
"We need to be heard and believed," Ali said.