Georgia is the Most Dangerous State in the Country if You’re a Black Woman
The state of Georgia boasts a thriving economy, a varied culture, and a lengthy history. It is also a state, though, where being a Black woman might mean the difference between life and death. Georgia has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the country, and the highest rate for Black women, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Georgia also has some of the highest rates of rape, homicide, and domestic abuse against women—particularly Black women—among the top ten states. What causes this concerning state of affairs, and what steps might be taken to make it better?
Maternal Mortality: A Crisis of Access and Quality
Maternal mortality refers to the death of a woman from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, either during the pregnancy or within a year after the end of the pregnancy. Compared to the national rate of 29.6, Georgia’s maternal mortality rate increased from 2013 to 2017 to 66.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. This indicates that compared to the average American, pregnant Georgians had a twofold higher risk of dying both during and up to a year after giving birth. Black women, on the other hand, have an even higher rate—they are three times as likely than White women nationwide to pass away from pregnancy-related problems.
A primary cause of this discrepancy is the limited availability of high-quality prenatal and postpartum healthcare services. 240,000 Georgians lack health insurance because their state did not accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Many Georgians who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but too little for private insurance might be attributed to this discrepancy. It is noteworthy that even pregnant individuals who qualify for Medicaid are likely to lose coverage 60 days after delivery, given that 79% of pregnancy-related deaths happened between 43 days and a year after pregnancy, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s 2014 Maternal Mortality Report.
An other contributing reason is the dearth of medical professionals in the state’s rural areas, where there are nine counties with no doctors and 79 of the 159 counties without obstetricians or gynecologists. This implies that a large number of expectant mothers must travel great distances to obtain prenatal care or forego it completely. Furthermore, due to financial difficulties, a few rural hospitals have shuttered their labor and delivery departments, forcing expectant mothers to give birth in emergency rooms or other locations that might not be prepared to handle complications.
The structural inequalities based on gender and race that have an impact on the standard of care that Black women get constitute a third component. According to studies, Black women are more likely to encounter prejudice, disregard, and indifference from medical professionals. This can cause delays in diagnosis, treatment, and referrals. Chronic illnesses including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are also more common among black women, and they raise the possibility of difficulties during pregnancy. Nonetheless, with appropriate and prompt care, many illnesses are frequently avoidable or controllable.
Violence Against Women: A Culture of Impunity and Injustice
Another significant factor contributing to Black women’s injuries and deaths in Georgia is violence against women. At 2.8 per 100,000 women, Georgia has the sixth-highest national incidence of female homicide victims in 2019, according to the FBI. Though they make up just 30% of all women, Black women experience a far greater rate of homicide—they account for 63% of all female victims in the state. In addition, Georgia’s rate of rape per 100,000 women in 2019 was 43.6, ranking it seventh nationally. Once more, compared to White women, Black women experience a significantly greater rate of sexual assault at the hands of acquaintances, strangers, or intimate relationships.
The state’s pervasive culture of unfairness and impunity is one of the causes of this violence. Being one of the few states without a hate crime statute, offenses motivated by prejudice against an individual’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or other traits are not penalized harsher than other types of crimes in Georgia. This conveys the idea that certain lives are less precious than others and that those who commit violent crimes can get away with it. Thousands of untested rape kits, which are collections of evidence from victims of sexual assault and can be used to identify and prosecute perpetrators, are also backlogged in Georgia. In addition to depriving survivors of justice, this backlog permits rapists to continue living their lives and maybe do harm to other women.
The dearth of resources and assistance available to victims of assault is another factor. There aren’t many shelters, counseling centers, or legal aid programs in Georgia for women who are seeking assistance or escaping violent circumstances. Many of these services are overburdened by demand, understaffed, and lacking in funding. Furthermore, a number of these agencies lack cultural competence and are insensitive to the needs of Black women, who may encounter extra obstacles like stigma, racism, and social exclusion. Because of this, a large number of Black women fail to report violent crimes, ask for assistance, or end abusive relationships, which puts them at higher danger of injury or even death.
Conclusion: A Call for Action and Accountability
The statistics unequivocally demonstrates that Georgia is the most deadly state in the union for Black women. More black women than any other race or ethnicity in Georgia are at risk of dying from rape, domestic abuse, homicide, pregnancy-related difficulties, and rape. These injuries and fatalities are not inevitable; rather, they are the outcome of structural and systemic issues that prevent justice, restrict access to high-quality healthcare, and encourage violence. To solve these problems and defend the rights and lives of Black women, the state must act decisively and responsibly.
The following are a few of the measures the state may take:
- 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.
Not only are these steps required, but they are also feasible because state legislators, activists, and advocates have already suggested or started several of them. To be adopted and maintained, they do, however, need political will, public knowledge, and community engagement. As a result, it is crucial that the state listens to Black women and includes them in the processes of decision-making and evaluation, as well as that it holds itself and its institutions accountable for the results and effects of these activities. In Georgia, black women are not only the most vulnerable but also the most strong, resilient, and influential group; as such, it is important to acknowledge and value their experiences and views.
If you’re a Black woman, Georgia is the most dangerous state in the union, but it doesn’t have to be. The state has the power to alter this situation and guarantee that Black women can live in dignity, safety, and justice by assuming responsibility and acting accordingly.