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Birth Justice Fund

Groundswell considers birthing rights to be a core component of reproductive justice (RJ). Consequently, Groundswell supports community-based efforts that promote a sense of fundamental dignity for parents, families and communities by reclaiming the sacredness of the birth process and the power of choice around how, when and where birthing happens. To that end, Groundswell believes that access to quality midwifery care is a fundamental human right that should be available to all, regardless of race, age or economic status.

The goal of the Birth Justice Fund is to eliminate disparities in pregnancy and birth outcomes experienced by women of color, low-income women, young women and transgender people. We accomplish this by increasing access to empowering and culturally relevant birthing options, led by midwives, doulas and other birth workers of color, and changes in policy and practice aimed at improving birth outcomes.

Tewa Women United_2 birth justice

The United States spends the most of any industrialized country on childbirth, yet ranks 50th in the world for maternal mortality. This problem is even more acute for certain communities. African American women, for example, are four times more likely to die of childbirth related complications than white women and, according to current CDC data, their infant mortality rate is 2.4 times the rate for white women. Native American women face infant mortality rates at 1.5 times the rate of white women. In the past 15 years, cesarean rates had their sharpest increase (57 percent) in young women under the age of 25. Additionally, there are a significantly higher percentage of babies of color born prematurely or with low birth weight than white babies due to lack of access to adequate prenatal care and other inequities.

Midwifery and doula care are changing these outcomes by providing low-cost, high-quality care where it might not otherwise exist; reducing the rate of hospital interventions like cesarean birth; and lowering infant and maternal mortality rates among vulnerable populations.

The Birth Justice Fund partners with individuals, organizations, and communities that work to address these disparities and embrace the birth process as a path toward autonomy and empowerment for parents, children, family and community. Expanding beyond the birth process itself, the Fund supports efforts that apply principles of midwifery, as defined by the community itself, throughout entire communities, systems of care and institutions.

Guiding principles of the Fund

Empowerment — We recognize the importance of choice, access to information and resources, and education that empowers people to make their own decisions and act on their own behalf in pursuit of their reproductive health and wellbeing. We recognize that women, in particular, have been disempowered in this regard — but that not all women are disempowered in the same way — and that transgender and gender nonconforming people also face disempowerment. We believe that an empowering birth experience offers a strong space from which to organize and advance systemic change.

Community-based — We honor birth as a sacred community process that places the voices and leadership of parents at its center and addresses issues of equity, access, and birth justice within the context of the whole community.

Interconnected — We see value in connecting individuals, communities, and generations of women in order to break down isolation, deepen understanding across difference, and join together for greater systemic impacts. We see value in connecting people who parent and give birth across sex, gender, race and class differences.

Holistic — We believe that the most transformative approaches to childbirth integrate the whole being — mind, body, and spirit — of the person giving birth. This allows for the healing of past traumas and strengthens family and community relationships, including our relationship to the Earth.

Birth Justice Fund goals

The Birth Justice Fund aims to:

  • Improve pregnancy and birth outcomes for women of color, low-income women, young women, transgender and gender nonconforming people; and
  • Support parents, families and communities to reclaim their power, restore their relationship to their bodies and each other, and transform how the next generation is welcomed into the world.

The Birth Justice Fund supports organizations, projects and midwives who are working to:

  • Increase access for marginalized communities to culturally competent midwifery services, doula support and other holistic birth options, while promoting a sense of fundamental dignity for parents, families and communities.
  • Support the entry and sustainability of women of color, low-income women, young women and transgender people into a variety of birth work professions (i.e. lactation consultants, doulas, postpartum service workers and midwives). Increase the number of professionally trained midwives of color.
  • Build an infrastructure of support for birth workers of color to increase their knowledge and skills, and advocate for policies and practices that will better meet the needs of their communities.
  • Connect women of color, low-income women, young women and transgender people more deeply to themselves, their power and their ability to transform their communities by employing the values inherent to midwifery and other traditional birth practices.

To support a thriving field, the Fund engages in the following key strategies:

  1. Direct grantmaking to organizations and projects.
  2. Partnering with new and existing funding sources to increase support for this under-resourced, but critically important work.
  3. Movement building support to strengthen the intersection of birth justice and other reproductive justice organizing and advocacy efforts.

Who BJF funds

  1. Model clinics/Birth centers
    The Fund seeks to increase access to midwifery care for low-income women, communities of color, young people, transgender and gender nonconforming people by supporting community-based birth centers and individual clinics that serve marginalized communities and improve birth outcomes. The Fund is particularly interested in clinics that may share with other communities as model projects for attaining these goals.
  2. Support for birth workers of color
    The Fund supports projects and organizations that seek to connect, support, train and organize women of color, low-income women, young women and transgender people who are engaged in birth work, including doulas, lactation consultants, post-partum service workers and midwives.
  3. Organizing and advocacy to improve birth outcomes
    The Fund supports organizing and advocacy efforts that address disparities in access and outcomes on a systemic and policy level. In order to achieve these goals, the Fund prioritizes community education, organizing and advocacy around the following topics:
  1. Medicaid reimbursement for midwifery and doula services, and other approaches to increasing access for low-income people at the state and national levels.
  2. Regulatory policies that are friendly to birth centers and other out-of-hospital births.
  3. Decriminalization of pregnancy and birthing choices, including advocacy on behalf of the rights of birth workers, incarcerated women, substance-using women, transgender people, and all people to choose how, when, and where they will birth.

The Fund provides the following types of support: General operating grants, capacity building grants and project grants, with grant sizes ranging from $5,000-$40,000.

To apply: Proposals are by invitation only. However, interested organizations are encouraged to contact Groundswell at info@groundswellfund.org with a brief summary of their work and where possible/appropriate, staff will schedule a call to discuss.