Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

‘Government must eliminate racial disparities in maternal deaths’ says Women & Equalities Select Committee

The Women & Equalities Committee has called on the Government to set
a definitive target to eliminate “appalling” disparities in maternal deaths.

The report which was the culmination of evidence heard through the Black maternal health inquiry, the Committee concluded the current Government and NHS measures to address the disparity in maternal deaths are “necessary but insufficient” and that the Government and NHS leadership have “underestimated” the extent to which racism plays a role in perpetuating inequalities.

Birthrights gave evidence to the Committee last March ahead of the publication of Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies, a report detailing the devastating impact systemic racism has on the delivery of safe maternity care.

Responding to the report, Birthrights co-Chief Executives Janaki Mahadevan and Shanthi Gunesekera said:

‘The findings of the Women and Equalities Committee drew upon the experiences of Black and Brown women and birthing people and healthcare professionals who generously shared their experiences through Birthrights year-long race inquiry, which published its report in May last year, alongside important research conducted by FiveXMore and The Muslim Women’s Network. 

‘How many more reports or statistics do we need to see about the racism that exists in the structures, cultures and practices that govern maternity care in the UK before serious and meaningful action is taken?

‘All women and birthing people deserve to feel safe and heard throughout their pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, we know from our race inquiry that Black and Brown women and birthing people feel that racism has a direct impact on their sense of safety, which is borne out in data that shows stark disparities in maternal experiences and outcomes.

‘Too often the voices of women and birthing people are ignored or dismissed. Layer onto this racial microaggressions and stereotyping, failure to recognise serious medical conditions due to skin colour, and a lack of respect for culture and religion and the inequalities in outcomes are unsurprising. 

‘Birthrights continues to campaign to dismantle the deeply damaging cultures and processes that allow racism to impact outcomes for Black and Brown bodied women and birthing people so that safe rights-respecting care that fully respects bodily autonomy, self-agency and accepts and understands lived-experience is experienced by all.’

Download report Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies

The safety of hundreds of women and birthing people from Black and Brown and mixed ethnicity backgrounds is being put at risk due to systemic racism within UK maternity care. Download our inquiry’s report.

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.