Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Murphy

Second Advisor

Olivier Bercault


In this analysis, I delve into the historical context of medical racism in the United States, including the dark history of medical experimentation on black bodies from the time of the antebellum south until now. I pose the question: What is the correlation between race, socioeconomic status and geographic location to the quality and access to maternal health care? This deeply anti black historical background has a direct correlation to the quality and access of healthcare for black mothers. I approach this analysis through both a theoretical framework and statistical research, specifically highlighting the works of black feminist and global feminist writers. Next, I explore the importance of doulas and the pertinence of decolonizing the birthing space in order to improve health outcomes for black women. Key statistics regarding maternal death rates are analyzed and connected to the historical context of medical racism. Furthermore, I include several examples of the commodification of black women’s bodies and fertility both in the U.S and globally in order to further display the correlation between this sinister history and the current health crisis of high maternal death rates for black women. This includes modern examples of medical neglect and racism in addition to historical examples that relate back to the systemic oppression faced by women of color while receiving medical treatment. Lastly, I explore the healthcare system in both Sweden and Norway, two countries with some of the lowest maternal death rates in the world. Within this, I examine the correlation between a homogenous society and its health outcomes and explore the ways in which the U.S healthcare system can benefit and learn from the Nordic healthcare model in order to lower maternal mortality rates.