With U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Spiking, Groundswell Fund Announces $500,000 for Birth Justice for Women of Color, Low-Income Women, and Transgender People


New Video Highlights the Need for Culturally Competent Birthing Services Led by Women of Color and Transgender People

Today, Groundswell’s Birth Justice Fund, the only fund in the country dedicated to making midwifery and doula care and training accessible to women of color, low-income women and transgender people, announced its 2017 grantees. More than 20 organizations will receive funds, totaling close to $500,000, to expand care, including increasing access to culturally competent birthing options provided by midwives, doulas, and other birth workers of color.

As a part of the announcement of funding, Groundswell is also releasing a new video highlighting the imperative of expanding birthing options to shift childbirth mortality and infant mortality rate outcomes. The video features birth workers and advocates who are fighting for policies and implementing models to ensure babies can come into the world safely and that all people giving birth can survive and thrive regardless of where they live, their race or ethnicity, immigration status, age, income, gender or sexuality.

See the video on birth justice here: https://vimeo.com/groundswellfund/birthjusticefund

The goal of Groundswell’s Birth Justice Fund is to eliminate disparities in pregnancy and birth outcomes experienced by women of color, low-income women, and transgender people.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, women of color in particular, are bearing the brunt of America’s maternal mortality crisis:

  • The United States has one of the worst maternal death rates of industrialized nations.

  • Black women are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth related complications than white women.

  • The infant mortality rate for Black women is 2.2 times the rate for white women; for Native American women, it’s 1.6 times the rate of white women.

The funding will help grantees change policies and increase access to models of care that can improve birth outcomes.  “A major solution to high rates of poor maternal and infant health outcomes in communities of color is right in front of us”, says Groundswell Fund Executive Director Vanessa Daniel.“Community-based, culturally competent midwifery and doula care is producing dramatically lower rates of C-sections, low infant birth weight, and maternal mortality, and higher rates of breastfeeding and positive birth outcomes in communities where conventional hospital birth has failed to move the needle for decades. Groundswell is committed to making this high quality of care accessible to as many people as possible.”

Grantees include:

  • Commonsense Childbirth, Inc. (CSCB), which uses a nationally recognized midwifery care model, The JJ Way, to improve birth outcomes and significantly reduce rates of infant mortality in Florida. Research has proven that women of color who were cared for within the JJ Way model reached statistically significant longer gestational periods and experienced lower preterm birth rates. Black women experienced a 0% preterm rate, compared to the FL average of 14.2%.

  • Breath of My Heart Birthplace, which serves a high percentage of Latinx and Native American people in rural Española, New Mexico sees a 2.3% cesarean section rate compared to the statewide rate of 23.8% and a national average of 32.7%.

  • Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic, provides group birth support services to low-income Black and Latinx families, connecting pregnant people to a range of providers and birthing options. From 2015-2016 they worked with the city of Austin, TX, to fund a new stream of work to address inequality in health care, including maternal health.

  • The Prison Birth Project, provides an organizing vehicle as well as trauma-informed doula care and childbirth education classes to women and transgender parents impacted by the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.

“All people, regardless of race, class, sexuality and gender have the right to choose, when and how they’d like to form families and to have the supports they need to do so,” says Alexandra DelValle, Groundswell Senior Program Director.

Current Birth Justice Fund Grantees include: Ancient Song Doula Services (Brooklyn, NY); The Birth Place Lab: “Giving Voice to Mothers”(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada); Birthmark Doula Collective (New Orleans, LA); Breath of My Heart Birthplace (Española, NM); Changing Woman Initiative (Santa Fe, NM); Commonsense Childbirth, Inc. (Winter Garden, FL); Elephant Circle (Denver, CO); Healing Clinic Collective(Oakland, CA); International Center for Traditional Childbearing (Portland, OR); InTune Mother Project (Oklahoma, OK); Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic (Austin, TX); Mamatoto Village (Washington, DC); Mother Health International: Sisters Keeper Doula Collective (Charlottesville, VA); National Advocates for Pregnant Women (New York, NY); National Perinatal Taskforce; Native Youth Sexual Health Network; Prison Birth Project (Northampton, MA); Sista Midwife Productions (New Orleans, LA); Surge (Seattle, WA); Southern Birth Justice Network (Miami, FL); Tewa Women United (Santa Cruz, NM); Uzazi Village (Kansas City, MO); Young Women United (Albuquerque, NM).

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Groundswell Fund is the nation’s largest reproductive justice funder. Since its founding in 2003, Groundswell has granted more than $32 million to the U.S. reproductive justice movement — the primary movement engaging women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people as grassroots activists on reproductive issues. Groundswell Fund is a public foundation, meaning it is powered by donations rather than by endowment.


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