US Olympic legend Allyson Felix has spoken out, emphasizing the need for better maternity care for black women in America to ensure that the death of her former teammate tori bowie is not in vain. Bowie tragically died at the age of 32 last month due to complications during childbirth.
In an article for Time Magazine, Felix, a seven-time Olympic champion, expressed her concern, saying, “Three gold medalists from that 4x100m relay team in Rio set out to become mothers. All three of us, all Black women, had serious complications. Tori passed away. We’re dealing with a Black maternal health crisis. We have three Olympic champions, and we’re still at risk.”
In 2018, Felix gave birth prematurely at 32 weeks, after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure. Tianna Madison (formerly Bartoletta), another member of Felix and Bowie’s gold-medal-winning 4x100m relay team, also revealed that she faced a near-death experience during childbirth, after going into labor at 26 weeks.
Felix brought attention to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2021, which showed that the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the US is 2.6 times higher than that for white women. Similarly, a 2021 study by the University of Oxford demonstrated that Black women in Britain were four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women.
Underlining the urgency of the situation, Felix stated, “There needs to be a change, now, especially in light of Tori’s tragic passing.” Felix also mentioned celebrities serena williams and Beyonce, both of whom had near-death complications during pregnancy. “I hate that it takes Tori’s situation to bring attention to this issue,” writes Felix. “But often, it serves as a wake-up call.”
Expressing her concern about having more children, Felix called on the medical community to address the challenges faced by Black women. “Doctors need to have conversations with pregnant Black women and educate them about the signs to look for during pregnancy,” writes Felix. “We are at a greater risk of experiencing these complications.”
Despite the challenges, Felix remains hopeful that “things can get better.” She expressed her hope that Bowie’s death will result in much-needed changes to health care for Black women.