Medicalization & Privatization of Black Bodies
Historically Black mothers in the South have been criminalized and blamed for social conditions based on a population control ideology that our reproduction is the root cause of economic and environmental degradation, without ever looking at the real causes of war and corporate environmental crises like the BP oil spill. This mythology has been pervasive in further implicating Black women, and Black mothers in particular, as imminent threats. This is demonstrated in the South in particular with such conditions as in Louisiana, where health care practitioners blamed the state-of-emergency after Katrina on the overpopulation of Black people, and flooded into storm-ravaged communities offering free sterilizations to Black women.
In addition, the increasing medicalization and privatization of childbirth has affected our access to positive conditions and choices in care for poor Black women and families. One example is the occurrence of cesarean sections amongst Black and Latina women is at an all-time high in the South. Poor and working class women and women of color are more likely to be subjected to court ordered surgeries, or to be threatened with state intervention and control. This also includes pushing the role and traditions of Black midwifery out of our communities. In Alabama, only Certified Nurse Midwives are legally authorized to practice in the state, though few attend hospital births, and none attend out-of-hospital births. Home births are legal in the state, but it is illegal for a midwife to attend them, thereby leaving women fewer choices and ultimate removal from birthing traditions and practices that are rooted in spiritual and political legacies of resiliency for Black and Indigenous folks in the South. In Mississippi, midwifery advocates were working to defeat a measure in the state legislature that would reduce women’s birth options by restricting who is able to perform home births. These desperate times require us to respond innovatively, creatively and swiftly to what is at stake for our collective survival and traditions.