Antoinette Charles, a fourth-year medical student based in North Carolina and a campus advocate for Black maternal health, is using her voice to shed light on the racial health disparities among African Americans, especially for millennial and Gen Z Black women, and what is at stack for this year’s presidential election as it relates to Black maternal health.

Charles recently completed her master of public health program at UNC, with a focus on health policy. As an aspiring surgeon, she is committed to addressing healthcare disparities among vulnerable populations and vows to serve her community by ensuring quality care for all individuals. Charles chose her field of study to understand critical issues, develop interventions, and advocate for equitable healthcare access in the US.

As a medical student and public health graduate, Charles believes it’s vital for physicians to shape policies for better community care. She considers it her duty to focus on data regarding public policy changes and their impact on Americans’ health.

“In the United States, Black women are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related complications than White women. Following the overturning of Dobbs v. Jackson, we’ve witnessed implications that exacerbate existing disparities in access to reproductive healthcare,” Charles told Blavity in a recent interview. “The recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling on frozen embryos has further hindered access to crucial services like In vitro fertilization, which is vital for enhancing the chances of successful pregnancy. Moreover, the closure of women’s health clinics due to funding losses has only exacerbated these challenges. It is crucial to recognize the strides made by the Biden-Harris Administration in defending access to emergency medical care, enhancing access to contraception, and championing reproductive freedom.”

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a proclamation in light of this year’s Black Maternal Health Week, addressing the ongoing crisis Black mothers face in the healthcare system.

“Studies show that when Black women suffer from severe injuries or pregnancy complications or simply ask for assistance, they are often dismissed or ignored in the health care settings that are supposed to care for them. People of color — including expecting mothers — also bear the brunt of environmental injustices like air and water pollution, which worsen health outcomes,” Biden said in the public White House announcement. “That is why my Administration has worked to address this crisis from the very beginning. Vice President Kamala Harris came into office as a key leader on maternal health and continues to fight for improved maternal health outcomes, elevating the issue nationally and convening experts and activists to find solutions.”

Black Maternal Health Week commences on April 11 through April 17, aiming to spotlight the healthcare challenges confronting Black women and advocating for their fundamental right to equitable access to care.