ATLANTA — You may know Lucy McBath as the newly-elected congresswoman who defeated Karen Handel in Georgia's 6th District.
Others may know her for her passionate fight against gun violence after her son Jordan Davis was killed in 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. He and friends sat in an SUV in a gas station parking lot when he was gunned down over loud music.
But now, this lawmaker will be known for another cause that she is pushing for. And to do it, McBath is opening up about another personal experience - one that almost killed her.
"I myself, after I had my son Jordan, became toxic and almost died," she shared.
The congresswoman is drawing attention to Black Maternal Health Week. She joined more than 50 other Congress members who are on a mission to address the mortality crisis for Black women who die at high rates or deal with complications from childbirth.
WATCH FULL SERIES: Mothers Matter
"The mortality rate, the crisis women - more specifically for women of color - that are dying of childbirth is ... alarming," she said. "What we are having to do is to really find out the core reasons why women are not cared for as they should during their pregnancies."
11Alive has done an extensive investigation into maternal mortality rates with our series, Mothers Matter. In hospitals across the nation, too many women are dying after childbirth, but it's happening more often for black mothers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women are three to four times more at-risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes than any other race.
"The research the Caucus will be doing will be medical studies and lots of case studies to follow the numbers of women across the country as they are pregnant," McBath said. "Watching the kind of care they receive, making sure they receive the best care that they can. And for the women who are having problems, finding out the core reasons why medically they're having problems and address those problems so that we don't have women that continue to die during childbirth."
During the Mother's Matter series, 11Alive talked to women who almost died and to the families of those who lost their loved ones from a pregnancy-related death. For Kira Johnson, a black mom, her life ended less than 12 hours after the birth of her second child.
All signs pointed to a healthy delivery, said her husband, Charles Johnson. She never missed a prenatal visit and received great reports each time. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Then Charles made a disturbing discovery: blood in Kira’s catheter. After waiting for hours, Charles said, Kira was taken back for an internal exam. He never saw her alive again.
She died from a hemorrhage. Her youngest son's birthday will forever be remembered as the day his mother also lost her life.
Kira Johnson: Charles and Langston's mommy
Black women die at higher rates regardless of their education, how much money they make or pre-existing conditions. Dorothy Roberts, the director of the Penn Program on Race, Science & Society, believes the reason for the racial disparity is directly tied to racism.
“You know, some people hear those statistics, and they'll say, 'There's something wrong with black women - it must be some gene that black people carry that causes it,'” said Roberts said in the Mothers Matter series last summer. However, she said it has nothing to do with genetics.
“All of this is racism. It’s various types of racism,” Roberts said. “They go to all their prenatal appointments. They are in good condition when they arrive at the delivery room, and then they experience racial discrimination by medical professionals."
Health experts say 50,000 women each year almost die as a result of childbirth. That’s one mother every 10 minutes in the United States.
"We're the United States of America, this shouldn't be happening here," McBath said.
She is hoping that this will someday change.
"We want to make sure each and every American woman has the ability to have great healthcare during the entire process of her pregnancy and making sure that she and he baby are both thriving after her child is born," she said.
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