Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. The reasons are wide-ranging, from what resources are available to the ongoing issue of bias and racism in healthcare. Aftershock, an eye-opening new documentary, aims to shed new light on this massive problem.
From co-directors Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Eiselt, the film centers on the stories of late mothers Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac, who died due to preventable childbirth-related causes. In the wake of their deaths, Aftershock follows their partners and families, activists, and birth workers who are tackling this systemic issue.
As conversations about the maternal mortality rate and racism in healthcare have arisen in recent years, the documentary couldn’t have come at a better time. The co-directing duo explained to ELLE.com that they had both personal and practical reasons for starting the project.
“My inspiration for making Aftershock came from the numerous stories I heard firsthand from women across the United States about too many Black women needlessly dying from childbirth complications that could have been prevented,” Tonya Lewis Lee says. “My hope is that viewers will come away from the film empowered to discover and explore the best birthing options available to them, and inspired to do what they can to ensure all women have dignified safe births in the United States.”
Her fellow filmmaker director Paula Eiselt adds: “My inspiration came from my own pregnancy and birth trauma, and then learning what I experienced on an individual level affects Black women at much higher rates and with greater stakes. Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. The U.S. is the single most dangerous place in the industrialized world to give birth. This story urgently needed to be told. I hope audiences will feel empowered by their human and legal right to choose where they birth and who has the privilege of assisting them. This story is not doom and gloom; there are very tangible solutions to this crisis that can ensure human-centered care and better birth outcomes. Our collective dream is that Aftershock can be used as a tool to bring together communities, healthcare providers, hospitals, medical schools, insurance companies, and policy-makers to help shift the U.S. birthing culture.”
Aftershock, from Disney’s Onyx Collective and ABC News, premiered at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the special Impact For Change award, and later showed at South by Southwest. It’ll finally begin streaming on Hulu, for all to see, on July 19. Watch the full trailer, premiering exclusively on ELLE.com, above.