Frontier Nursing University (FNU) faculty and staff members challenged their thinking about birth justice and reproductive oppression this year at the 2018 ACNM Conference in Savannah, Ga. FNU President Dr. Susan Stone, staff members Shelley Aldridge and Angela Bailey, and faculty members Drs. Jane Houston, Nena Harris, Niessa Meier and Ally Williams coordinated the first annual FNU Case Day and Panel on Birth Justice and Equity, held on May 22, 2018.
Officially entitled “FNU Celebrates ‘The Soul of Savannah’: Taking us Back to our Beginnings: Being Colored & Colonized,” FNU’s hopes in pioneering and supporting this event was that it would lead to open conversation about equality in birth outcomes and allow many voices to be heard on the topic.
The three-hour discussion began with Case Presentations from FNU students, who shared their case findings and information on health disparities. The presentations are listed below by student and topic:
Lauren Cox – Vaginismus
Stephanie Martinez – Chicago Birth Workers of Color (ChiBiWoCo) (see video here)
Corianne Parada – Placental Abruption
Each presentation fulfilled the students’ Case Day requirements and allowed for questions after the closing statements.
Stephanie Martinez, one of the case presenters, was pleased to have an open discussion about so many of the issues that plague their community. They are a co-founder of ChiBiWoCo, a grassroots collective of birth workers of color providing full spectrum services throughout the Chicagoland area.
“Born out of need, we work to support communities of color in their birthing and reproductive choices through our ancestral wisdom and birthright,” said Martinez.
Martinez entered the health care workforce after learning of the great prevalence of sterilization abuse and violence directed toward youth in the sex trade at the hands healthcare personnel.
“We envision communities that are able to thrive, self-determine, and live autonomously, free from judgment, ridicule, and criminalization as it relates to their choices of parenting and birth.”
The event continued with the Panel portion, an informative discussion about birth justice moderated by Keisha Edwards with FNU faculty members Nena Harris and Heather Clarke, FNU alumna Dalia Lee, and certified nurse-midwives Mandesa Smith and Venay Uecke.
Participants shared clinical experiences and insights into how the health care workforce can address issues surrounding birth justice, health disparities and bias.
The conversation that took place at the panel is one step in the right direction for tackling those disparities and creating optimal birth outcomes for more families around the nation.
According to Nena Harris, PhD, FNP-BC, CNM, the discussion is one that needs to continue in order to keep pushing in the right direction.
“We would like to do this event annually at ACNM,” said Harris.
Panel participants came away with several takeaways from the discussion.
“We need to actively listen to ALL midwives and birth partners (providers too), to improve pregnancy and health outcomes particularly among people of color and/or marginalized persons due to gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Dr. Jane Houston, DNP, CNM, ARNP, RM, Clinical Director of Midwifery and Women’s Health at FNU.
“This annual event brought together a powerful group in a free discussion format for all stakeholders. Thanks, FNU, for your support of this venture.”