Georgia is the Most Dangerous State in the Country if You’re a Black Woman

Georgia is a state with a rich history, diverse culture, and booming economy. However, it is also a state where being a Black woman can be a matter of life and death. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Georgia has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, and the highest for Black women. Moreover, Georgia ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of homicide, rape, and domestic violence against women, especially Black women. What are the factors that contribute to this alarming situation, and what can be done to improve it?

Maternal Mortality: A Crisis of Access and Quality

Maternal mortality is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. In Georgia, the maternal mortality rate reached 66.3 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2013 to 2017, as opposed to the national maternal mortality rate of 29.6. This means that pregnant Georgians were two times more likely to die during their pregnancy and up to one year postpartum than the average American. However, this rate is even higher for Black women, who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women nationally.

One of the main reasons for this disparity is the lack of access to quality prenatal and postpartum health care. Georgia is one of the states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving 240,000 residents in a coverage gap. This gap accounts for many Georgians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little for private insurance. Even pregnant people who qualify for Medicaid are still likely to lose coverage 60 days after delivery, which is noteworthy considering that 79% of pregnancy-associated deaths occurred between 43 days and one year after pregnancy, according to the 2014 Maternal Mortality Report by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Another factor is the shortage of health care providers in rural areas of the state, where 79 of the 159 counties have no obstetrician-gynecologist, and nine counties have no doctor at all. This means that many pregnant people have to travel long distances to receive prenatal care, or go without it altogether. Additionally, some rural hospitals have closed their labor and delivery units due to financial constraints, forcing pregnant people to deliver in emergency rooms or other facilities that may not be equipped to handle complications.

A third factor is the systemic racial and gender-based disparities that affect the quality of care that Black women receive. Studies have shown that Black women are more likely to experience discrimination, disrespect, and neglect from health care providers, which can lead to delays in diagnosis, treatment, and referrals. Black women are also more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, which can increase the risk of pregnancy-related complications. However, these conditions are often preventable or manageable with adequate and timely care.

Violence Against Women: A Culture of Impunity and Injustice

Violence against women is another major cause of death and injury for Black women in Georgia. According to the FBI, Georgia had the sixth-highest rate of female homicide victims in the country in 2019, with 2.8 per 100,000 women. However, this rate is much higher for Black women, who accounted for 63% of the female homicide victims in the state, despite making up only 30% of the female population. Moreover, Georgia had the ninth-highest rate of rape in the country in 2019, with 43.6 per 100,000 women. Again, this rate is disproportionately higher for Black women, who are more likely to be sexually assaulted by strangers, acquaintances, or intimate partners than white women.

One of the reasons for this violence is the culture of impunity and injustice that pervades the state. Georgia is one of the few states that does not have a hate crime law, which means that crimes motivated by bias against a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics are not punished more severely than other crimes. This sends a message that some lives are less valuable than others, and that perpetrators can get away with violence. Furthermore, Georgia has a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits, which are evidence collected from sexual assault survivors that can help identify and prosecute offenders. This backlog not only denies justice to survivors, but also allows rapists to remain free and potentially harm more women.

Another reason is the lack of support and resources for survivors of violence. Georgia has a limited number of shelters, counseling services, and legal aid for women who are fleeing abusive situations or seeking help. Many of these services are underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed by the demand. Moreover, some of these services are not culturally competent or sensitive to the needs of Black women, who may face additional barriers such as racism, stigma, and isolation from their communities. As a result, many Black women do not report violence, seek help, or leave abusive relationships, which can increase their risk of further harm or death.

Conclusion: A Call for Action and Accountability

Georgia is the most dangerous state in the country if you’re a Black woman, as the data clearly shows. Black women in Georgia face a higher risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications, homicide, rape, and domestic violence than women of any other race or ethnicity in the state or the nation. These deaths and injuries are not inevitable, but rather the result of systemic and structural factors that limit access to quality health care, perpetuate violence, and deny justice. Therefore, it is imperative that the state takes action and accountability to address these issues and protect the lives and rights of Black women.

Some of the actions that the state can take include:

  • Expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Georgians, especially pregnant people and those with chronic conditions.
  • Increasing funding and support for rural health care providers, especially those who offer prenatal and postpartum care.
  • Implementing a hate crime law that recognizes and penalizes crimes motivated by bias against a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
  • Testing and processing all rape kits in a timely manner, and ensuring that survivors have access to justice and support.
  • Providing more funding and resources for shelters, counseling services, and legal aid for survivors of violence, and ensuring that they are culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of Black women.

These actions are not only necessary, but also possible, as some of them have already been proposed or initiated by lawmakers, advocates, and activists in the state. However, they require political will, public awareness, and community engagement to be implemented and sustained. Therefore, it is also important that the state holds itself and its institutions accountable for the outcomes and impacts of these actions, and that it listens to and involves Black women in the decision-making and evaluation processes. Black women are not only the most vulnerable, but also the most resilient and powerful group in Georgia, and their voices and experiences must be heard and respected.

Georgia is the most dangerous state in the country if you’re a Black woman, but it does not have to be. By taking action and accountability, the state can change this reality and ensure that Black women can live with dignity, safety, and justice.

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