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The dangers of pregnancy and childbirth in America

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Allyson Felix reflects on the tragic death of her teammate Tori Bowie:

Tori grew up in Mississippi and had this huge Southern accent. She didn’t take herself too seriously. You felt this sense of ease when you were around her. I last saw her in early 2021, in San Diego, where she was training. She gave me the biggest hug; something about her spirit was just very, very sweet. I felt her sweetness come over me that day.

Tori was 32 when she died. According to the autopsy, possible complications contributing to Bowie’s death included respiratory distress and eclampsia—seizures brought on by preeclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder that can occur during pregnancy. I developed preeclampsia during my pregnancy with my daughter Camryn, who was born in November 2018. The doctors sent me to the hospital, where I would deliver Camryn during an emergency C-section, at 32 weeks. I was unsure if I was going to make it. If I was ever going to hold my precious daughter.

Like so many Black women, I was unaware of the risks I faced while pregnant. According to the CDC, in 2021 the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 2.6 times the rate for white women. About five days before I gave birth to Camryn, I was having Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I mentioned that my feet were swollen. As we went around the table, the women shared their experiences during pregnancy. My cousin said she also had swollen feet. My mom didn’t. Not once did someone say, ‘oh, well, that’s one of the indicators of preeclampsia.’ None of us knew. When I became pregnant, my doctor didn’t sit me down and tell me, ‘these are things that you should look for in your pregnancy, because you are at a greater risk to experience these complications.

I’m not sure which section of the blog post Sam Alito used to consign countless American women to the 19th century sets my blood to the highest temperature — the breezy assertion that women no longer had a meaningful interest in reproductive freedom because there were some jurisdictions where a newborn could be dropped off at the police station, or the breezy assertion that women had no material reliance interest on Roe or Casey at all. But both are absolutely monstrous.

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