Researchers and advocates gather to discuss federal and state policy implications maternal health outcomes, family planning, and economic justice at first-ever Texas Motherhood Summit.

On May 5, Children at Risk and Texas Family Leadership Council (TXFLC) presented their first ever Texas Motherhood Summit to celebrate motherhood and unpack public policies lifting them up or bringing them down. This summit offered attendees a deeper look at maternal health outcomes, family planning, and economic justice. 

Speakers presented an overwhelmingly amount of data highlighting the importance and disparities that mothers face in Texas. To set the stage, emcee Melissa Atkins Wardy, Director, Texas Family Leadership Council, CHILDREN AT RISK and special guest State Representative Toni Rose spoke to the importance of healthcare access for mothers and some of the recent steps that Texas has taken to address that.  

“This success wouldn’t have been made possible without the work of advocates and professionals like yourselves. HB 133 ensured that new mothers receive the new treatment and continuity of care that saved their lives,” said Representative Rose. 

“This success wouldn’t have been made possible without the work of advocates and professionals like yourselves. HB 133 ensured that new mothers receive the new treatment and continuity of care that saved their lives.”

Texas State Representative Toni Rose

District 110

Texas Representative Toni Rose provides opening remarks at the first-ever Texas Motherhood Summit.

,Next, Dr. Elizabeth Gregory of the UH Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality presented data on maternal health and began to paint the picture of the intersection between maternal health, family planning and economic empowerment. Sharing about the status of mothers in Texas, Dr. Gregory discussed the gendered hardship matrix which shows that factors cascade, possibly intensifying another and these factors are directly related to their health. She emphasized how many moms in Texas are without healthcare and the impact that this has on maternal mortality rates. She then highlighted the gender pay gap in Texas, who the decision makers are in government and how this all plays are role in women’s issues not being at the forefront of public policy.

Dr. Gregory followed this presentation by moderating a robust discussion on maternal health featuring Emilee Whitehurst, President & CEO, HAWC, Dr. Conte Terrel, Founder & Owner, Fresh Spirit Wellness Inc. and Dr. Theresa Morris, Professor of Sociology, and Coordinator of Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Texas A&M University.  The panelists provided a personal perspective on domestic violence, health disparities, and maternal mortality in Texas.

Dr. Morris spoke of the number of barriers to maternal health that women face. This is in part due to the lack of expansion of care post-partum. While this was expanded it is still not enough. Ms. Whitehurst spoke about the specific challenges that mothers who experience domestic violence and sexual assault face and how this impacts their family unit. “When mom’s aren’t healthy, children aren’t healthy”, which is why it is so important to make the connections between violence, maternal health per Ms. Whitehurst. Dr. Terrel spoke about the relationship between DV/IPV, pregnancy and maternal mortality, pre-term delivery, mental health challenges among others.  All panelists emphasized the need for more effective policies to support mothers in getting the care needed.     

After this rich discussion, Melissa Atkins Wardy moderated a discussion with Dr. Kathleen Broussard, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of South Carolina, and Anne Van Horn, Community Outreach Director, Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinic on family planning and socialization.  Anne Van Horn spoke about challenges in access to affordable primary care and reproductive health care, access to jobs and behavioral health for teen mothers in Texas. Dr. Broussard spoke to the data trends in reproductive health and explored how mothers seek family planning services when access has been restricted. 

The program continued with Christian Menefee, Harris County Attorney leading an exhilarating discussion on economic empowerment and barriers to access with Dr. Teresa Granillo, CEO, AVANCE, Inc., Krista Del Gallo, Legislative Director, Texas Council on Family Violence and Dr. Sylvia Acosta, President & CEO, YWCA El Paso del Norte Region.

Mr. Menefee first highlighted the vital role that the economic security of women plays in the prosperity of our communities and the economy touching on challenges such as pay equity, wealth gap, affordable quality childcare, and paid family leave. Dr. Granillo shared the impact that barriers to affordable childcare has on a family. Many families have to turn to options that may not be quality childcare settings that are not always meet the developmental and socialization that children need. Krista Del Gallo spoke about family size and its dynamic relationship to household wealth and how this can impact survivors who may not have or have had control over their family planning.

“Women’s issues are economic development issues” Dr. Acosta began, only beginning to highlight that “when we discuss women’s issues, it needs to be women and men at the table” because economic development issues impact the entire workforce. She continued on with an inspiring and empowering response detailing issues impeding women’s access to economic opportunities. Following this, Summer Kelly, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Amazon concluded the event by weaving together the threads of maternal health, family planning and economic empowerment.

“We heard some startling statistics today, and these don’t just live on slides and white papers, these are individuals…we can’t educate ourselves out of this system,” Kelly noted before Melissa Atkins Wardy wrapped up with a call to action reemphasizing the action that is needed to change the system, thus improving the lives of all mothers.

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Mothers Matter. Healthy Moms are essential not just in the lives of children but to the success of our state’s economy. Join us for this virtual summit to celebrate motherhood and unpack the public policies lifting them up or bringing them down. From prenatal care to child care, mental health, and economic justice, we’ll explore what Texas moms need and what advocates, business leaders, and policymakers can do to support them better. This summit is sponsored by Amazon and is presented in partnership with Dress For Success Houston and the Texas Family Leadership Council (TXFLC).

This post was written by Lindsey Wilkerson, Children at Risk’s Associate Director of the Children’s Immigration Network and the Senior Coordinator of the Texas Family Leadership Council (TXFLC). Lindsey’s work is focused on building multiple statewide collaboratives, public relations and community engagement, and immigration.