Family addresses new bill that could help curb pregnancy-related deaths in Louisiana

A recent study revealed that maternal death rates in the U.S. just keep getting worse, especially in Louisiana.
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 10:58 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A recent study revealed that maternal death rates in the U.S. just keep getting worse, especially in Louisiana.

In Louisiana, four Black mothers die for every white mother and two Black babies die for every one white baby. Louisiana’s maternal mortality rate also exceeds the national average as Louisiana ranks 47th out of 48 states.

Baton Rouge NAACP President Eugene Collins shared his personal connection to this ongoing crisis.

“My sister was one of the nicest people you could ever meet,” said Collins.

His sister, Jessica, died at the age of 33. In March 2020, Jessica was pregnant with her second baby, Jayce Ruffin, when she got concerned about her blood pressure and went to the hospital.

“My sister went to the hospital, to the emergency room, and the emergency room actually sent her back home,” said Collins.

On her way home, their mom told Jessica to turn around and go back.

“My mom, who worked for a physician here locally for a number of years, has had some medical training. So, she heard the symptoms and told her to go back to the hospital,” said Collins.

Sadly, Jessica never made it back home.

“The timeframe is unknown for how long she sat there, but she goes back to the emergency room, they sat her back in the waiting room and she sat there and had a stroke,” said Collins. “She’s a bigger woman, and witnesses from that day told me hospital personnel drug her across the floor to take her to the back.”

Eugene said Jessica and Jayce died just days apart. He believes if doctors had listened to his sister the first time, she and his nephew would still be alive.

“We should not be in a state of living in a place where more Black women and Black babies walk into a hospital, but less walk out,” said Collins.

Nationally, maternal mortality is higher among Black women than white women and Black women are more than three times likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to LDH.

To help improve healthcare options for future mothers, Gov. Edwards signed the Jessica Collins Ruffin Act, named in honor of Collins’ sister.

This new legislation opens the door for more women to turn to a midwife for their pregnancy needs by offering Medicaid reimbursements.

This means more low-income families will have access to midwifery services than ever before.

“What this will do is give birthing people greater choices of who they want to support them through their pregnancy and postpartum period,” said Frankie Robertson, founder of the Amandla Group.

Leaders believe this new option is just the start in addressing this ongoing problem.

“They may not want an OBGYN, they might want a midwife to support them, and now with increased reimbursement rates through Medicaid, hopefully more midwives will accept Medicaid and more midwives will continue their practice because it’s more sustainable for them,” said Collins.

Advocates hope this is just the beginning of future legislation and change to come to help fix this issue.

“This is a problem, and you will continue to see poor birth outcomes if we don’t value, respect, listen and trust black women about our own health and our own bodies,” said Collins.

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