NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the nation puts a spotlight on problems plaguing Black communities, two fathers are sharing their heartbreak to draw attention to medical disparities.
Both men recently lost their partners to pregnancy complications in New York City, where the maternal mortality rate is significantly higher for Black women.
What happened next is why their heartbroken partners are here.
“I think that Shamony’s death was a direct result of systemic racism,” Omari Maynard, Gibson’s partner, told CBS2’s Christina Fan.
“If Amber would have received standard care, she would be here,” said Bruce McIntyre, Isaac’s partner.
Just four days before Isaac died during an emergency C-section, she posted an ominous tweet about “dealing with incompetent doctors.”
Her partner said the hospital had no idea her platelet levels were dropping and described a pregnancy and delivery riddled with neglect.
Gibson died of a pulmonary embolism a couple days after giving birth. Her partner says her constant complaints of difficulty breathing went unheard.
“It’s disgusting, it’s inhumane, the way that Black women, brown women, Indigenous women are being treated and ignored,” McIntyre said.
Another Black woman, Sha-Asia Semple, died at Woodhull Medical Center in July after giving birth to her daughter. She was suffering from high blood pressure and went into cardiac arrest.
The baby was delivered by emergency C-section, but doctors could not revive Semple.
“I just want justice for my daughter, that’s all I want,” said Dennis Semple, Sha-Asia’s father.
In the United States, Black mothers are three times more likely to die in childbirth compared to white mothers.
In New York City, that number increases to eight times.
Public health experts say the disparity is due to racism.
“Some of it is individual, some of it is institutional. Individually, Black women typically live in an environment that is full of stress. Stress is bad for a baby in utero,” said Dr. Robert Fullilove, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams discussed some proposals Thursday, including a clear set of standards presented to pregnant women at all city hospitals as well as birthing centers, and the promotion of the aid of midwives or doulas in New York State.
“Pregnant women should be aware of their rights … and know what respectful care looks like,” Williams said.
In 2018, the city launched a comprehensive plan to reduce maternal deaths, including implicit bias training for providers. Under the plan, NYC Health and Hospitals also began simulation training to focus on top causes of death for women of color.
Providers admit the work can’t end here.
“We are expanding our access to doula services. That’s an equality issue. We are expanding our midwifery services,” said Wendy Wilcox, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Kings County Hospital.
These fathers aren’t stopping either.
While McIntyre hopes to open a birthing center for under-served families, Maynard is offering support to other fathers who have lost partners too.
“I feel like it’s important for us to speak and engage so that men know that there are other men who are going through the same thing, who have felt the same pain,” Maynard said.
And who are now committed in the same fight to make sure Black mothers stop dying.