As Texas Expands Maternal Mortality Committee Some Worry New Qualification Might Exclude Certain Advocates

Texas maternal health advocates are concerned that a new qualification for members of its maternal mortality review committee to have experience in a relevant “health care field” might exclude people who are otherwise qualified.

According to the Houston Chronicle the state will expand its volunteer Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Committee to investigate pregnancy-related deaths and illnesses. Some are worried the committee’s new professional qualification added in September 2023 might result in the current community advocate Nakeenya Wilson being replaced with someone who is not as “in touch” with the communities that have been impacted the most negatively.

Certified nurse midwife, Dinah Waranch, shared her reservations at one of the committee’s meetings, according to the Houston Chronicle. “A community member with experience in a relevant health care field may not have the same grassroots engagement with the public.” Waranch also said, “And I would be sorry if the community position now occupied by Nakeenya Wilson were taken by someone not as in touch with our women’s public health advocates on the ground.”

Wilson is involved with the community in more ways than one. According to Restore Family Support Services, Wilson volunteers with a number of organizations in Austin including, Impact Austin, I Live Here I Give Here, Black Austin-Mamas, and Black Families of Hutto, among others. The nonprofit director is required to reapply to the community advocate position with the maternal mortality review committee despite her term ending in 2027. However, Wilson is less worried about losing her position, according to the Houston Chronicle. She said her concerns are “less about me and more about who it will be.”

Executive director of Shades of Blue Kay Matthews, an advocate for maternal health care for Blacks echoed Wilson’s qualms. Matthews said according to the outlet, “I felt like (the committee) had taken steps in the right direction. But now I feel like we’re going back to what got us to this point, not being able to have the right people at the table.”

The outlet noted that in 2022 Wilson was outspoken about Texas’ decision to delay the release of maternal death data. It also reported that Texas ranked above the national average for the highest maternal mortality rate. The U.S. has the highest rate among developed countries, according to The Commonwealth Fund.