U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester hosts roundtable on Black maternal health crisis in Wilmington

By Joseph Edelen
Posted 4/15/24

WILMINGTON — Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester was joined by a group of state and national community advocates on Saturday to discuss the country’s Black maternal health crisis and …

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U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester hosts roundtable on Black maternal health crisis in Wilmington


WILMINGTON — U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., was joined by a group of state and national advocates Saturday to discuss the country’s Black maternal health crisis and potential solutions to address the problem.

Hosted at Oath 84 in Wilmington, Rep. Blunt Rochester was joined by state Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear; Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All; as well as Tiffany Chalk and Mona Liza Hamlin, co-chairs of Delaware’s Black Maternal Health Committee.

The event coincided with Black Maternal Health Week, which is being celebrated nationwide from April 11 through 17.

In the United States, Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those statistics were underscored by the congresswoman, who stated that these deaths are on the rise despite 80% of them being preventable. Further, she noted that, in 2019, Black women made up 28% of live births in Delaware while representing 78% of pregnancy-related deaths from 2017 to 2021.

“We owe it to our sisters, we owe it to each other to talk about the disparate health outcomes that exist and how we can eliminate those; to talk about the things that people call the social determinants of health, the social drivers of health,” she said.

The congresswoman stressed the importance of the federal Black Maternal Health Momnibus, which is a package of 13 bills that range from investments in the social determinants of health – like housing, transportation and nutrition – to federal programs that support maternal and infant health risks during public health emergencies.

Further, Rep. Blunt Rochester referenced the Moms Matter Act, which she sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives. The effort would make “critical investments” in community-based programs that provide mental and behavioral health treatments and support mothers with maternal mental health conditions or substance use disorders.

As the panel continued their discussion, Ms. Chalk offered a glimpse into her own experiences and how they have guided her advocacy efforts since.

About 20 years ago, Ms. Chalk was just shy of 24 weeks’ gestation and went to the hospital after “just not feeling right.” Doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy because the 24-week threshold determines if the child is medically viable. But after finding out that she was in active labor, she decided to move forward with the birth.

Her son was born, but passed away from complications 28 days later.

“I felt like I was looked at as this single Black mom with this issue,” Ms. Chalk said of her experience, noting that the birth was her second child; she was married; did not live in a high-risk ZIP code and had private insurance.

“They say all the things that Black women don’t have. But I was a Black woman who had all these things.

“I was looked over, and that was very, very traumatic… I was glad that I had the choice to say, ‘No, we’re not going to terminate my pregnancy. I’m going to give birth to this child and whatever happens, happens.’ He passed, but from that point on, I said, ‘I never want a Black woman to experience what I experienced and [what] my family experienced.’”

As the discussion continued, Sen. Pinkney referenced strides being made in the state’s General Assembly that would help address the social determinants contributing to the maternal health crisis, such as affordable housing solutions and increasing support resources.

She also brought up legislation she co-sponsored that would extend Medicaid to cover abortion care, which is being led by House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle.

Throughout the discussion, leaders advocated for electing Rep. Blunt Rochester to the U.S. Senate to increase representation – especially for issues like Black maternal health.

“There are only 25 Black women serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and only three Black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate, and the crazy thing is, there’s never been more than one at a time,” the congresswoman said. “Representation does matter and we can save lives.”

Rep. Blunt Rochester is the only Democrat to announce a bid in pursuit of the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del. There are two Republicans – Eric Hansen and Bill Taylor – and one Independent, former Democratic state Sen. Mike Katz.

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