A conversation is long overdue about what is unnatural in what the locals call ‘The Natural State.’ We have to address the lack of access to reproductive health care and the stark reality of high infant and maternal mortality rates in Arkansas.
Infant and maternal mortality in Arkansas have the same roots as other states — structural oppression, income inequality, poverty, an inequitable health system, and a hostile environment for reproductive health. Addressing these problems are important steps toward healthier pregnancies, fewer forced pregnancies, and more just communities to raise families in Arkansas (or wherever you live!).
Here’s a snapshot of reproductive health data in Arkansas:
- Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate in the United States.
- Arkansas has the 3rd highest infant mortality rate in the United States, almost 40 percent higher than the national average.
- The death rate for Black infants is twice as high as for white infants.
- Nine percent of babies in Arkansas are born with a low birth weight (less than 5 lb. 8 oz.) which increases risk of serious health conditions and death.
- Arkansas ranks 44th in women who access prenatal care before the third trimester of pregnancy, and Latinas and Black women are less likely than white women to have access to quality prenatal care in Arkansas.
- In Arkansas, 35 per 100,000 women die during or after childbirth, a number almost 75 percent higher than the US average.
- Black women regardless of education and income in Arkansas suffer from more pregnancy complications, premature births, and die more often during or after childbirth.
- Arkansas has no anti-shackling laws that ban the inhumane and dangerous practice of shackling incarcerated women during labor and childbirth.
- Arkansas has no sex education requirements in public schools.
- Arkansas has blocked Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood to provide reproductive health services to low-income people.
Reproaction is working for reproductive justice in Arkansas because we deserve the right to decide whether to have children as well as the means to raise our families in safe and healthy environments. We are suffering from some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the nation, and communities of color are bearing the brunt. From the Ozarks to the Delta, Arkansans need equal access to quality medical care during pregnancy, evidence-based sex education, and access to abortion care.
As Reproaction’s Arkansas Organizing Fellow, I’m not in this fight to protect the past or maintain the status quo. Sign our pledge, and together we will take a stand for reproductive justice in Arkansas!