Atlanta woman rallying against ‘birthing while Black’ inequality

New CDC data: More than 1200 maternal deaths in 2021, women of color impacted most
1,205 women died of maternal causes in the United States in 2021.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:07 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - It’s been six years since Wanda Irving’s daughter, Dr. Shalon Irving, died in the days after giving birth.

Wanda now raises Shalon’s daughter, Soleil, who survived the birth.

“There are times she comes to me and says, ‘Nona, I want to die.’ And I’m like ‘what do you mean you want to die?’ You’re 6 years old and you have a whole life ahead of you. But [she says] ‘I want to go be with my mommy,’” Wanda detailed in an interview with Atlanta News First on Friday.

Irving said her daughter, a former epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, was a champion for healthcare equity and equality.

“She was what was needed now,” said Irving.

This week, the CDC released new data that shows maternal deaths surged in 2021 compared to 2020.

1,205 women died of maternal causes in the United States in 2021 compared with 861 in 2020 and 754 in 2019, according to Dr. Donna L. Hoyert with the Division of Vital Statistics.

And women of color are disproportionately impacted.

According to the report, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White women.

“And until birthing while Black is a safe, healthy experience, we will continue to fight,” said Irving.

On Friday, Sen. Raphael Warnock tweeted his reaction to this report.

A spokesperson for Warnock’s office told Atlanta News First Sen. Warnock plans to push congressional leaders to ensure maternal health programs are fully funded in the annual government funding process.

Wanda founded Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Program, an organization committed to increasing awareness surrounding Black maternal health.

During the week of May 7, Irving is helping organize a nationwide Postpartum Awareness Week that includes an event in Atlanta.