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Georgia's 'March For Change' advocates demand better healthcare for moms and babies

Advocates demanding better healthcare for mothers and infants
Advocates demanding better healthcare for mothers and infants 02:29

ATLANTA (WUPA) - Local members and advocates of the March of Dimes took part in a virtual March for Change on Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to improve maternal and infant healthcare in Georgia.

Dr. Quantrilla Ard, a Morehouse College professor and author living in Fairburn, remembers when she developed preeclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder, around 35 weeks into her pregnancy.

She says doctors induced labor, gave her an epidural, and performed an emergency c-section after the baby's heart rate dropped. She says her concerns fell on deaf ears. 

Dr. Quantrilla Ard shortly after giving birth to her son Quentin.  WUPA/Dr. Quantrilla Ard

"I just felt like so many things were being done to me, and I was not being seen as a birthing person worthy of communication," said Ard.

Fortunately, Ard, and her now 13-year-old son, Quentin, had a happy and healthy ending. 

"There are so many women who don't have that story, who don't have that outcome," she said.

The March of Dimes reached out to state lawmakers on Wednesday through a national lobbying effort called March For Change, demanding better healthcare for moms and babies in Georgia.

"The State of Georgia has one of the highest infant mortality and maternal mortality rates in the U.S," said March of Dimes Director of Maternal and Infant Health Shelmekia Hodo, calling it a state of crisis.

According to a March of Dimes Report Card, Georgia received an "F" grade for its preterm birth rate of 11.9%, which is below the national grade of D+. Their data also shows the birth rate among Black women in Georgia is 47% higher than other women. In addition, it shows Georgia's infant mortality rate of 6.1 per 1,000 live births is higher than the national rate of 5.4. 

They've urged lawmakers to support several initiatives, including $2 million for the new Home Visiting Pilot program, extending the Family Care Act (SB 61), which allows people to earn paid sick leave to care for loved ones, beyond the July 1, 2023, expiration date. 

Advocates had also hoped lawmakers would pass the Pregnancy Protection Act (HB 556), which would provide workplace accommodations for job applicants and employees, but the bill is stalled until the next legislative session. The House was expected to vote on Home Visiting program funding on Thursday, during a budget hearing. 

"We know that, with these changes in policies, we can prioritize the health and improve the health outcomes for moms and babies," Hodo said.

They're urging others to reach out to lawmakers and share their stories. 

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