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Ndome Essoka

  • Hosted by Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Sponsored by Covington & Burling LLP, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school William & Mary School of Law
  • Issue area Human Rights, Reproductive Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Ndome (she/her/hers) works with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) to expand access to maternal healthcare for low-income pregnant people and women of color by addressing legal barriers to midwifery care through impact litigation, policy advocacy, legal research, and community education.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality ratio among developed nations, and Black women and Indigenous women are disproportionately affected. Unlike many other wealthy nations where midwives  care for most birthing people, the U.S. has imposed medically unnecessary legal and financial barriers to midwifery services.

Midwifery care has the potential to address many barriers to safe and respectful maternal health care. Expanded access to midwifery care, including more midwives of color, can equitably improve maternal health outcomes and enable low-income pregnant people of color to make meaningful decisions about where, how, and with whom they will birth.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Ndome has:

  • Analyzed transcripts of interviews with midwives and midwifery stakeholders, drafted a memo identifying the urgent legal and policy issues faced by interviewees, and presented findings
  • Managed and analyzed the results of an open records request made to a state health department regarding midwifery licensure regulations in preparation for potential litigation
  • Researched claims and remedies available through litigation to address barriers to midwifery, identified a venue, assisted with interviewing potential plaintiffs, and has started drafting a lawsuit challenging midwifery restrictions in chosen state
  • Contributed to submissions to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues and the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination describing racial inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health care in the United States

Next Steps

In the next year, Ndome plans to:

  • Identify priority bills to support or defeat in priority states during the next legislative session
  • Draft model bill language or advocacy materials to support coalition’s legislative priorities
  • With CRR team of litigators, draft and file lawsuit challenging midwifery restrictions in chosen state

Media

Reproductive Rights Discussion with Hillary Schneller and Ndome Essoka

Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights

I believe that reproductive rights are human rights and should be treated as such.

Ndome Essoka /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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