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GREENWOOD Dist.–With data from the state’s own health department showing Black mothers are nearly twice as likely to die from childbirth as White mothers, a grassroots coalition is stepping up to fill in the gap in solutions.

A Tulsa-based coalition of Black reproductive health advocates, dubbed “The Persevere Cohort,” is hosting an event to update the community on their efforts over the last year and their plan for what comes next on Saturday, May 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at OSU-Tulsa inside the B.S. Roberts room.

As part of the “May 6 Initiative,” The Persevere Cohort works to identify critical issues impacting Black reproductive health equity. The group seeks to elevate community voices and stories, build and mobilize community power, and utilize tools and strategies to create systemic change.

maternal mortality

According to the Centers for Disease Control, despite Republican Gov. Stitt repeatedly voicing efforts to make Oklahoma a top 10 state, Oklahoma consistently ranks in the bottom 10 of U.S. states for some of the worst rates of pregnancy-related deaths. The Governor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oklahoma’s annual report, “Oklahoma Maternal Health, Morbidity and Mortality,” shows that Black women account for 40.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 25.4 for White women, 24.9 for Native American women, and just 4.4 for Hispanic women. The overall maternal mortality rate for Oklahoma women was 23.5, according to the report. Rates for Native Hawaiian and Asian/Pacific Islander women were not available.

In recent years, local organizations such as Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative have also stepped up to address the crisis. The organization has trained 71 community duolas and supported 119 births since 2019.

Oklahoma maternal mortality in bottom 10 as abortion access banned

Advocates for reproductive choice have warned that banning access to abortion would disproportionately impact Black women. Even so, Oklahoma has become one of strictest anti-abortion states after Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a bill that bans abortion at fertilization. According to the CDC, Oklahoma is 40th in the nation for overall maternal mortality rates.

National rates of maternal mortality are already three times higher for Black women and have been climbing each year, a fact The Persevere Cohort is determined to address at the local level.

On Saturday, the cohort will discuss the next phase of its plans to advance Black reproductive health through an initiative called “Reproduce U.”

“Beginning summer 2023 Reproduce U. will bring together community members, industry professionals, systems leaders and elected officials to have critical conversations about black reproductive health outcomes and to form research teams that will craft attainable policy solutions,” the cohort announced on Monday.

Reproduce U. will focus on Increasing Humanity in Healthcare and Creating Equity in the Economics of Healthcare over a 10-month span, the group announced.

The May 6th Initiative and The Persevere Cohort are supported by OSU-Tulsa Center For Public Life and Standpipe Hill Strategies in partnership with Hillcrest Medical Center, St.Francis Hospital Tulsa and Ascension St. John Medical Center through funding from The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. 

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...