U.S. Rep. Cori Bush testified before Congress this week, sharing personal experiences about the failures and “racist treatment” she and other Black “birthing people” have endured from the health care system.

On Thursday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing to review the Black maternal mortality crisis afflicting Black birthing people, a gender inclusive term Bush invoked to encompass all who give birth.

During her testimony, the 44-year-old revealed personal experiences in which said she had to go through several options and opinions to receive adequate medical care. She said even though she raised concerns to her doctors about her issues, many of them were ignored.

The St. Louis native and mother of two said her son, Zion, “was born at 23 weeks gestation versus what is considered a normal pregnancy of 40 weeks.”

Bush was under the impression that her pregnancy was progressing normally, until she started having sharp pains.

“Around five months I went to see my doctor for a routine prenatal visit, as I was sitting in the doctor's office, I noticed a picture on the wall that said, ‘If you feel like something is wrong, something is wrong. Tell your doctor,’” she said. “I felt like something was wrong so I, so that's what I did. I told my doctor, I told her that I was having severe pains.”

“And she said, ‘Oh no, you're fine. You're fine, go home, and I'll see you next time,’” the congresswoman recalled.

About a week later, Bush said she went into labor early.

“At 23 weeks, my son was born, one pound three ounces,” she started. “His ears were still in his head, his eyes were still fused shut his fingers were smaller than rice and his skin was translucent. A Black baby translucent skin. You can see his lungs. He could fit within the palm of my hand.”

Doctors were skeptical that the boy would survive.

“We were told he had a zero percent chance of life,” the mother testified. “The chief of neonatal surgery happens to be in the hospital that morning and saw my case on the surgical board and she decided to try to resuscitate him. It worked him for the first month of his life as I was on a ventilator fighting to live. For four months he was in the neonatal care unit,”

The doctor who delivered Bush’s son, who is now 21, later apologized to the congresswoman, telling her, “You were right and I didn't listen to you, give me another chance.”

Two months later, Bush said she was pregnant and was assisted by the same doctor.

“At 16 weeks, I went for an ultrasound at the clinic and saw a different doctor who was working that day. I found out again I was in preterm labor,” she shared. “The doctor told me that the baby was going to abort.”

The Missouri politician recalled being vehement that the doctor do something, “But he was adamant. He said, ‘Just go home, let it abort, you can get pregnant again because that's what you people do.’”

She said her sister, who was there with her at the time, threw a chair down a hallway in disgust and nurses came rushing in to resolve the matter.

“The next morning my doctor came in and placed the cerclage on my uterus and I was able to carry my baby, my daughter, my angel who is now 20 years old,” Bush said.

These situations are what the Missouri mom said are happening far too often for Black birthing people.

“This is what desperation looks like: that chair flying down the hallway. This is what being your own advocate looks like. Everyday black women are subjected to harsh and racist treatment during pregnancy and childbirth. Everyday black women die because the system denies our humanity. It denies us patient care,” she said.

Bush added, “I sit before you today as a single mom as a nurse, as an activist, and as a congresswoman, and I am committed to doing the absolute most to protect black mothers, to protect black babies, to protect black birthing people, and to save lives.”

As Blavity previously reported, the White House issued a proclamation last month recognizing Black Maternal Health Week and pledged to take measures to address the maternal health crisis. It announced initial investments of $6 billion to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and more than $250 million to medical programs and other efforts benefiting families.

On Thursday, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley
announced on Twitter that she and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has re-introduced the Mommies Act “to expand Medicaid coverage for birthing people & promote community-based, holistic approaches to maternity care.”