Madison protests: Hundreds of marchers call for maternal justice in black community

Protesters marching for maternity rights for black mothers and their children in downtown...
Protesters marching for maternity rights for black mothers and their children in downtown Madison Saturday (Source: WMTV)(NBC15)
Published: Jun. 6, 2020 at 1:25 PM CDT
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Several hundred protesters marched in downtown Madison Saturday, this time for maternal justice in the black community.

"Nobody is talking about the black babies and the black women that are dying, not only at police violence, but at the hands of our healthcare system," said Tia Murray, a member of Harambee Village Doulas, the group that organized the protest.

The "Been Hard to Breathe" March for Maternal Justice started at the Capitol Building around noon and then moved down West Washington Avenue to Meriter Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital.

Outside the hospitals, protesters made speeches to nurses and doctors and volunteers handed out snacks and water. Several mothers shared personal stories of losing their own children.

The group organizing the march, Harambee Village Doulas, cites that black newborns have a 9.3 mortality rate, compared to white babies with a 3.7 rate. Organizers add the chance of black mothers dying in birth is five times higher than for white mothers.

"Implicit Bias, racism and obstetric violence goes unchecked within the healthcare system and we can not forget about this in our fight for equity," according to Harambee Village. "We are calling for attention to be made to the lack of informed consent in hospitals."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the infant mortality rate among African Americans is 2.3 times higher than in whites, and in 2017, African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than white mothers to receive little to no prenatal care.

Latreia Gibson, an expectant mother who witnessed the protest at Meriter Hospital, said hearing the stories made her anxious, but so far, nurses have done their best to answer her questions.

"They try not to sugarcoat anything I ask, they're very precise with it," Gibson explained.

Gibson is expecting a baby girl in a few weeks, and she said she hopes her daughter will grow up in a different world, where people can come together for change.

"I'm going to teach my daughter that she has a voice," GIbson said, adding, "If we don't have...unity, we will be left behind."

Kyle Nondorf, president of SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital, joined protesters outside the hospital. Some speakers said they had felt unsafe and uncomfortable at St. Mary's.

Nondorf told NBC15 News, "[It's a] very tough message that we heard today but a message that must be heard, not only from our hospital but also from all the health care providers in Wisconsin. We must do better. I'm committed to do better."

Protest speakers said that they will hold the president accountable.

The hospital also issued a statement that evening, saying that "working to address racial disparities needs to be a top priority."

"SSM Health is working with the Dane County Health Council as well as other community partners such as The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness on key issues related to racial inequities, especially as it relates to maternal and fetal disparities," according to the statement.

Saturday's march is the eighth day of protests in downtown Madison, and continued to trend of being peaceful since last Tuesday. Organizers have condemned the violence and looting that broke out the weekend before.

No curfews are in effect.

#LIVE Day 8: The "Been hard to breathe" March for Maternal Justice marching to hospitals in downtown Madison. MORE >>

Posted by NBC15 Madison on Saturday, June 6, 2020