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2024 Reproductive Justice Conference

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RJC 2024 Theme: Healing Black Bodies and Black Maternal Health

The Duke Women’s Center 2024 conference theme was Healing Black Bodies & Black Maternal Health. View the program from the 2024 Reproductive Justice Conference that took place on Wednesday March 6, 2024, in Karsh Alumni and Visitor’s Center to learn more about the amazing local and state activism work being done around black maternal health. This year’s theme touched on many topics at the heart of reproductive justice conversations, from black maternal health and morbidity, to regulations imposed on black bodies, to feelings of love and worth tied to the body. Panel topics included “Black Maternal Health: Local to National Activism,” “Reproductive Justice Scholarship at Duke,” and more. Our keynote speaker was Sonya Renee Taylor, poet, social justice activist, and author of the book The Body Is Not an Apology

For the full conference program, including a list of speakers and panelists, visit

RJC 2024 was part of our 2024 Women's History Month celebrations. For more information about WHM 2024 and how we celebrated it, visit

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Below are a selection of facts around Black maternal health and morbidity. These facts were curated from the CDC, the National Partnership for Women and Family and more. Full sources are linked below.

  • Black women are two to three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
  • Black birthing people are more likely to experience life-threatening conditions as a result of pregnancy related complications, including hemorrhages and blood clots.
  • Black women’s pain is likely to be downplayed or ignored in hospital and emergency settings.
  • Lack of access to culturally sensitive care (including doulas and midwives), legacies of racism in the medical system, and an undiversified workforce all contribute to the death of Black women and birthing people.


  • National Partnership for Women and Families, Black Women’s Maternal Health fact sheet (Nov. 2023) [link]
  • “How Can we Solve the Black Maternal Health Crisis,” by Annalies Winny & Rachel Bervell, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (May 2023) [link]
  • “Black Mothers Matter: Racism and Childbirth in America.” USC Annenberg via YouTube (Jun 2019) [link]
  • “Working Together to Reduce Black Maternal Mortality.” CDC, Health Equity. (April 2023) [link]

Prior to the conference, the Women’s Center worked with the Center for Multicultural Affairs to host a Zine Making Workshop with the topic: “Black Maternal Health and Why You Should Care.” The “you” in question refers to all people, not just Black women, femmes, mothers, and birthing people who are the most impacted by issues concerning Black maternal health. The framing of this question was intended to appeal to a wide audience and to invite folks who may not otherwise care into the conversations our conference was hoping to inspire. Below is a list of reasons why you should care about this reproductive justice issue that the students who attended our workshop came up with.

  • There are mothers raising younger generations that will influence society.
  • Our system should support all mothers, including Black women who are the foundation of entire communities.
  • 84% of [Black maternal] deaths are preventable.
  • Improving the health of the most marginalized improves the health of all.
  • Black mothers deserve quality of care and to have their voices heard.
  • Medical racism against Black mothers is ingrained into our medical systems and costs lives.
  • [Black maternal morbidity] is connected to racism.
  • Black women are an essential part [of] society.
  • Empowering Black women is essential for liberation of us all.
  • Black women are human . . . they matter.
  • There are very clear disparities in the health outcomes of Black mothers compared to their non-Black counterparts.
  • [We need] to advocate for equality in medical care.
  • Black maternal health inequalities are rooted in racial injustice and slavery.
  • Access to person-centered healthcare is a human right.
  • Because Black women’s health has been dismissed for too long and this conversation and research needs to happen.
  • [Caring about Black women’s health] stops the cycle of trauma in its tracks!
  • Black mothers are dying from things that can be prevented.

The Women's Center maintains a running list of resources related to gender equity, reproductive justice, and more! Visit to see the full list of resources and learn how to access them. Black maternal health specific resources can be found listed on the conference program, at

If you have a resource you’d like to submit, email with the subject “WHM Resources.”

Many thanks to the 2024 Reproductive Justice Planning Committee members without which this conference could not have been possible: Alex Espaillat, Latosha Williams, Amy Johndro, Ashka Shah, Millie Mak, Pearl Teiko, Dominique Barrett, Alicia Yang, Michelle Kwan, Lauryn Darby, Vaughn-Regan Bledsoe, Isabella Fauber, Gabriela Pereda, Chinelo Agwuegbo, Velda Wang, Sydney Okeke, Cathy Xiang, Lauren Lloyd, and Jaden Faunteroy. 

Thanks also to our many co-sponsors and partners who helped fund the conference and bring our keynote speaker to campus.

  • Ali Harrison, Duke Housing and Residential Life
  • Lauren Denton, Center for Multicultural Affairs
  • Baldwin Scholars, Colleen Scott, Baldwin Scholars Program
  • Sam Lopez, Student Involvement and Leadership
  • Samaiyah Faison, Mary Lou Williams Center
  • Elizabeth Jones, Duke Office of Institutional Equity
  • Mark Anthony Neal, Duke African and African American Students Department
  • Connor Biswell, Duke Student Government
  • Jennifer Nash, Duke Gender Sexuality and Feminist Studies Department
  • Dawna Jones, Duke Student Affairs

Do you want to be a part of next year's RJC? We are currently accepting applications for Planning Committee members and Event Partners. Planning Committee members determine the shape of the conference, identifying panelist questions, moderating group discussions, and serving as volunteers the day of. Event Partners help make the whole day happen. Email with the subject line “RJC Involvement" for more info.