It’s Black Maternal Health Week and the perfect time to shine the spotlight on some of the many Black women in politics who are working hard to make a difference that will last.

Yes, the statistics surrounding Black women and maternal health are grim— Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death or preventable maternal death than white women—but continuing to combat and call out systemic racial inequities and implicit bias in the medical community can and will have a long-term effect on increasing more Black women’s health outcomes.

Part of that work must happen at the federal and state levels by way of getting laws passed that will give pregnant Black women greater access to equitable care and hold medical facilities and governments accountable for its failures to us.

On Tuesday, The White House issued its first-ever presidential proclamation marking Black Maternal Health Week. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a round table focused on racial disparities in childcare and pregnancy-related deaths to commemorate the moment.

“Make no mistake, Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis,” Harris said during the roundtable discussion, according to The New York Times. “Black women are two to three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than other women.”

Harris isn’t the only lawmaker putting her power to good use in the name of Black women. After suffering her own tragic full-term pregnancy loss, Tennessee State Representative London Lamar introduced a resolution to recognize doulas as vital community health workers and bills that would further studies and reports on infant mortality.

“Sharing your story is so important,” Rep. Lamar said during an emotional Black Maternal Health focused Facebook live panel hosted by ESSENCE on Monday. “In October 2019, I lost my kid full term and almost died as a result of pregnancy, and it impacted my life. It was a very tough situation. All of the PTSD, the healing and having to go through the whole death process was very traumatizing for me and being the only woman in the Tennessee house, and of childbearing age, I felt it is my obligation to bring more awareness and policy change to making sure that Black women like myself don’t have to experience near death, or our children don’t have to die, because we want to bring children into this world.

Rep. Lamar revealed that it wasn’t until the issue hit so close to home for her fellow lawmakers that it seemed to truly open their eyes to how severe the risk is for Black women right now. “The Black maternal health crisis is something my legislators we’re hearing, and they’d say, ‘oh, well, we’re pro-life’, but until you see it and until it happens to one of your own, now you understand how big of an issue this is,” Rep. Lamar said during her appearance.

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Get to know five other Black female lawmakers who, like Lamar, are doing their part to battle the Black maternal health crisis and save more lives. We asked them to share what fuels their fight, what true “change” looks like to them and what they want to see happen next in their communities and beyond.

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