#BirthingWhileBlack: Stripping Black Mothers of their Autonomy

Black women in the maternal healthcare system are often stripped of their agency and autonomy by medical practitioners who tend to view them as unable to make decisions that are healthy and responsible. This exacerbates the distrust and social distance Black women experience in the medical system which historically, has denied access to and performed medical experimentation on Black people for the benefit of white people.

“I got a lot of negative experiences at the hospital, being a teen mom. Prenatal care was the worst though. That was my worst experience. That’s what I said. I coulda had all kinda medical problems and would have never know. And at that point I didn’t care, because I’m like, you are not going to violate me every time I come to this hospital. And tell me how you feel about my situation, my decisions and my body. That’s what would happen. So I stopped going. Because I was in teen mother classes all through high school, they told me when I got in 12th grade, you can’t go no more, cause you could teach the class. I was pregnant all the time. Even with all that experience and knowing about my body, I never had respect as a mother going to the hospital wanting to get care.

And my friends, because I went to class with them, they had the same experience. When they went to prenatal care, very few of them had doctors that would explain things to them about their bodies, or talk about they had choices. It was always getting told what to do. I seen them get late term abortions because these doctors felt that you don’t need to be having a baby, and they would convince their parents to do this. And I seen them. I would talk to my peers about this so I knew it wasn’t just my experience going to the hospital being treated like this…” – Zanthia, BATTLING OVER BIRTH: Black Women and the Maternal Health Care Crisis in California

Zanthia is a working class African American woman, doula, parenting educator and mother of eight children, four of whom she birthed before she was 20 years old. She has experienced prenatal care in Oakland, CA over a two decade period, and feels emotionally scarred by many of those experiences.


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