U.S. Healthcare System Endangers Black Pregnant People of Undocumented Status

By Ayana Byrd Apr 16, 2019

It cost roughly $11,000 to have a baby if you are uninsured in the United States—and that’s only if there are no complications that push that number higher. That price also does not include prenatal visits, lab tests or other related costs. And for immigrants of undocumented status—who are uninsured at nearly five times the rate of U.S. citizens—these costs are often the reason why pregnant Black people receive either zero or dangerously subpar prenatal care. This, of course, contributes to the disproportionately high Black maternal mortality rate. 

Reproductive health care for immigrants of undocumented status is a “patchwork system,” Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, told Rewire.News.

“Undocumented immigrants often must cobble together funds for health care, paying out of pocket at low-cost clinics, only visiting emergency rooms when in dire straits, or simply going without care,” the outlet reports, adding that Planned Parenthood is an option for prenatal and postpartum care—although not all immigrant women know about the organization.

And the health care obstacles faced by all immigrants of undocumented status are arguably worse for Black women. Per Rewire.News:


Black undocumented communities fear state violence, they fear being separated from their children and they fear being placed in deportation proceedings. While these fears often come to fruition for Black immigrants at higher rates than other immigrant groups, Black immigrants are typically erased from these realities by media representations and immigrant rights movements that frame immigration as a Latinx issue. [Co-founder of the UndocuBlack Network Gabrielle] Jackson said all of these things affect the health and well-being of pregnant people and new parents in Black immigrant communities.

Black women in the United States have disproportionately high rates of death related to pregnancy or childbirth. Black mothers die at three to four times the rate of non-Latinx White mothers. Babies born to Black women have mortality rates that are twice those of infants born to non-Latinx White women.

“Compared to White women, Black women are more likely to be uninsured, face greater financial barriers to care when they need it and are less likely to access prenatal care,” writes Rewire.News. Additionally, 2012 research by the Migration Policy Institute found that infants born to Black immigrant mothers faced a health disadvantage to babies born to non-Black immigrant and U.S.-born mothers.

Sydelle O’Brien, an immigration rights advocate of undocumented status, told Rewire.News: “Not being able to afford care or being blocked from accessing care puts a person at risk of experiencing pregnancy complications. It can make undocumented people feel like health care isn’t for us.”