175 Years of Injustice: Equal OB/GYN Services for Black Women Is a Civil Right
Updated: Oct 19, 2022
Image c/o Gayatri Malhotra unsplash
For centuries, America’s population of Black women has been subject to medical mistreatment. Today, it is time for actionable and applicable change.
Actionable and applicable change starts with knowledge.
Actionable and applicable change starts with facts; facts over 175 years in the making.
Over 175 years ago, in 1844, enslaved plantation workers, Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy, were delivered to Dr. J. Marion Sims of Montgomery Alabama (hence forth, I shall not use this individual’s name and shall refer to this individual as dr. EqualOBGYNRightsNow) in search for a cure for the women’s postnatal loss of bowel and bladder control. The painful loss of bladder and bowel control disabled the three women and they were deemed unproductive as slaves. Remedy was sought – not for their pain – but for their failure to work the fields as productive assets.
dr. EqualOBGYNRightsNow leased the three women with the intent of experimenting on their reproductive systems. Naked, restrained, and observed by a room full of curious physicians, the women were operated upon without anesthesia. Though the initial experiments failed and dr. EqualOBGYNRightsNow lost his funding, he continued such procedures for five years. Following five years of trial and error experiments inflicted upon Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy, again without anesthesia, he published results of successful procedures. His research earned dr. EqualOBGYNRightsNow the title of “the Father of Modern Gynecology.
Today, such criminal and inhuman behavior is, of course, beyond the pale.
Today, of course, no individual – let alone a member of the medical community – considers such behavior remotely acceptable.
Today, however, there is no need for an individual to consider such behavior as acceptable for such behavior has been passed from the hands of an inhumane individual to an entire medical system; a system continuing to deliver OB/GYN mistreatment to Black women of America.
Over 175 years after the individual traumas inflicted upon Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy, systemic trauma is inflicted upon their cultural decedents in the form of the continued unequal delivery of OB/GYN services.
Today, 178 years later, the facts lay bare systemic, as opposed to individual, trauma made manifest in the form of pervasive disparity in the delivery of OB/GYN services to America’s Black women. Medical disparities currently experienced by Black women are demonstrated as follows:
a. 10% Black vs. 5% White: late or no prenatal care,
b. 79% Black vs. 33% White: unintended pregnancies,
c. 41% Black vs. 13% White: maternal mortality,
d. 23% Black vs. 2% White: HIV diagnosis.
An American Black woman is three times more likely to die in childbirth and ten times more likely to be inflicted with HIV.
Behind these facts stand a community of women spanning friends, family, mothers, sisters, daughters.
Behind these facts stand systemic trauma as sharp as dr. EqualOBGYNRightsNow’s scalpel.
The facts suggest a systemic failing stemming from variables ranging from social determinants to personal prejudices.
“Hold on there. 175 years after the un-anesthetized trauma inflicted on Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy aren’t we past prejudices?” you ask.
I am afraid the answer is ‘No’. Consider the findings of a 2016 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research article, in which 50% of white medical students and medical residents agreed with a statement asserting biological differences between Blacks and Whites stating Blacks experienced (registered) pain less than Whites.
The facts speak for themselves.
As do the results of two centuries of mistreatment.
The unequal treatment of Black women derives from a confluence of social determinants and contributing variables one of which is prejudice; a prejudice More Up, The Mothers of Gynecology Initiative, and Research for Creative Insights seek to address.
Today, fueled with the history of the Mothers of Gynecology, Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsy, we arm ourselves with facts.
Facts represent the mothers of change.
Our intent is basic.
We seek equal OB/GYN medical services on behalf of America’s Black women.
We seek OB/GYN medical services as a principal element of American civil rights.
We seek OB/GYN medical services as a principal element of basic human rights.
And today, we seek your help.
If you’re ready to further change, contact us at https://www.anarchalucybetsey.org/
About the authors: Glenn Morgan is the founder of Research for Creative Insights, the Founder of the non-profit Project Elf, Inc, and is the principal investor in Women's Wellness Center of Massachusetts. Michelle Browder is an artist, the Director of the More Up Campus of Montgomery Alabama, and the Founder of the Mothers of Gynecology Initiative.
 Women and the American Story, “Life Story: Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy.” https://wams.nyhistory.org/a-nation-divided/antebellum/anarcha-betsy-lucy/  “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Reproductive Health Services and Outcomes, 2020”, by Sutton, Madeline Y. MD, MPH; Anachebe, Ngozi F. MD, PharmD; Lee, Regina MD; Skanes, Heather MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Feb 2021 Volume 137 (see Appendix)  “Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites” by Hoffman, Trawalter, Axt, Oliver, PNAS, April 4, 2016