“Aftershock” Examines Black Maternal Health Crisis

“Aftershock,” co-directed by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee tells the story of two families after the preventable deaths of their loved ones due to childbirth complications. In October 2019, 30-year-old Shamony Gibson tragically died of a pulmonary embolism 13 days following the birth of her son. In April 2020, 26-year-old Amber Rose Isaac, died due to an emergency c-section. Both women expressed concerns about their symptoms repeatedly to their doctors to no avail. Both of their deaths were preventable.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation. Black Women are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than white women. Lack of insurance, adequate care, and constant dismissals of Black women’s health concerns due to bias and racism in the medical field lead to more Black women dying. According to the CDC, over 60% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.

Public health experts say the maternal mortality rates may worsen with the overturning of Roe v Wade. It is estimated that banning abortion would increase pregnancy-related deaths by 33% for black women over time compared to 21% for whites.

“Aftershock” follows the two men left grieving after their partner’s death, Omari Maynard, and Bruce McIntyre. Maynard and McIntyre become advocates to bring awareness and create solutions surrounding the maternal health crisis. Through the film, we witness these two families become ardent activists in the maternal health space, seeking justice through legislation, medical accountability, community, and the power of art.

Their work introduces us to a myriad of people including a growing brotherhood of surviving Black fathers, along with the work of midwives and physicians on the ground fighting for institutional reform. Through their collective journeys, audiences find themselves on the front lines of the growing birth justice movement that is demanding systemic change within our medical system and government.

“A Black woman having a baby is like a Black man at a traffic stop with the police, you have to really pay attention to what’s going on every step of the way.”- Felicia Ellis

In addition, the film exposes the history of medical racism and how giving birth changed in the United States. Now the United States uses medicine and technology to push women into labor instead of allowing the birthing process to happen naturally. There is also less focus on the use of Doula’s and Midwives. “Aftershock” shows the journey of one couple as they focus on giving birth in a safe and nurturing environment.

Aftershock, an Original Documentary from Onyx Collective and ABC News, is currently streaming on Hulu.


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