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U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson Absent on Preventing Black Birth Disparities 

I have sought assistance from the U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson to address the perpetual maternity crisis facing Black mothers and babies in his district since 2018, but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Thompson has served  as the Democratic representative for Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District since 1993 and was the only Mississippi congressman to support the BABIES Act, which died in committee in 2019 and again in 2021. 

“I am a proud cosponsor of HR 5189, Birth Access Benefiting Improved Essential Facility Services (BABIES) Act. This legislation would create a demonstration payment under Medicaid,” Rep. Thompson said in an October 2020 email. “The legislation provides guidance to develop a prospective payment system (PPS) that would reimburse freestanding birth centers for prenatal care, perinatal, and postpartum mother, and infant care. By providing a model of cost coverage for freestanding birth centers, we can continue to use cost-effective, creative solutions to improve maternal mortality and improve infant outcomes.” 

Yet he has refused to unilaterally award federal appropriation funding to build a birthing center in his district, which needs it most. From 1994 to 2020, approximately 23% of Black women residents in the 2nd Congressional District did not receive prenatal care during the first trimester according to the Mississippi State Department of Health data tool

U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson is “the only Mississippi congressman to support the BABIES Act, which died in committee in 2019 and again in 2021,” Getty Israel writes, but says he has yet to offer any assistance for Black mothers in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District. Photo by Grace Marion

Nearly 50,000 premature births, over 26,000 early elective deliveries (non–medically indicated labor inductions or cesarean deliveries), more than 7,200 very low birth weight births and 4,352 fetal deaths have occurred among residents since Thompson has been in office. Black women accounted for approximately 79% of premature births, 66% of early elective deliveries, 86% of very low birth weight babies and approximately 85% of fetal deaths in his district.

African American women from all walks of life are dying from preventable pregnancy-related complications at three-to-four times the rate

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