Cori Bush’s Kids Nearly Died During Childbirth Because Doctor's Dismissed Her Pain

by Erica Gerald Mason
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Missouri legislator gave testimony about the importance of Black maternal health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Latina women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. This week, Representative from Missouri and member of the Congressional “Squad,” Cori Bush discussed her own experiences with the issue in a powerful testimony before Congress on the topic of Black maternal health.

The Missouri legislator, who almost lost both her children during her pregnancies, testified in Congressional hearings this week about the national crisis of Black maternal health.

The issue of Black maternal health is a serious concern and as New York State Attorney General Letitia James posted on Twitter: “Black mothers face systemic inequality and discrimination and lack access to many of the basic health services needed to survive. These glaring disparities are the root of far too many deaths. Congress must pass the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to address this crisis now.”

The hearing, called by the House Committee on Oversight Reform, is charged with investigating how racism in health care harms pregnant Black women.

Bush, who served as her own witness during the hearing, talked about the health problems that went ignored by her doctors as she carried her son and daughter.

The legislator said that during her pregnancy, as she waited in her doctor’s office at 5 months pregnant, she saw a sign that said: “If you feel like something is wrong, something is wrong. Tell your doctor.”

Yet during her appointment, when Bush advised her doctor she had experienced severe abdominal pain, the doctor waved away her concerns. The physician told her, “Oh no, you’re fine. You’re fine. Go home, and I’ll see you next time.”

Her baby Zion was born only a week later, a mere 23 weeks into her pregnancy — his birth weight measuring just over a pound. “His ears were still in his head. His eyes were still fused shut. His fingers were smaller than rice, and his skin was translucent,” Bush, a former nurse, said. “…We were told he had a zero percent chance of life.”

After a month on a ventilator and four months in intensive care, Zion survived and is now 21-years-old. Bush’s physician admitted that she had dismissed Bush’s previous worries and persuaded her to remain in her care when she became pregnant again.

Sixteen weeks into her second pregnancy, Bush was in early labor and another doctor at the hospital felt that the baby would most likely be lost and that it was not worth attempting to save.

“I said, ‘No, you have to do something,'” she recalled. “But he was adamant, and he said, ‘Just go home. Let it abort. You can get pregnant again because that’s what you people do.'”

Bush’s sister, who went with her to the hospital, flung a chair down the hallway out of desperation. After nurses ran into her room to investigate, they finally called her Bush’s doctor. After Bush’s doctor examined her, she was given a cervical cerclage, which is a stitch in the cervix to prevent early delivery. Bush’s daughter Angel was subsequently carried to term and is now 20-years-old.

Sadly, Bush’s experience is not an anomaly.

“This is what desperation looks like. That chair flying down a hallway,” Bush explained in her testimony. “Every day, Black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth. Every day, Black women die because the system denies our humanity.”