Families across the country faced the challenge of navigating COVID-19 restrictions that presented new rules and limited birthing options for parents delivering in hospitals and birth centers. Now, a group of Philly birth advocates are doing something about it.
The Philly Birth Fund started as a grassroots social media fundraising campaign by two community members; a local doula and a local mother, at the start of the pandemic. Now, a 501(c)3 since January, the Philly Birth Fund can continue to provide lower cost or free home births to Black families.
Philly Birth Fund Board President Abiola Osibodu Booker knows firsthand the challenge that Black mothers faced during the pandemic while searching for birthing options for her second child in 2019. She originally wanted to give birth at a birth center but it seemed more precarious as restrictions would not allow more than one support person at her birth or allow her older son. After finding Asasiya Muhammad of Inner Circle Midwifery, a Black midwife in Philly that could provide home births, it sounded like exactly what she and her husband wanted.
There was one roadblock though — most home births aren’t covered by insurance in Pennsylvania and out of pocket costs can range from $5,500 to over $7,000.
Osibodu Booker and her husband could not afford the out of pocket costs, especially with one income that was already being affected by COVID-19 shutdowns. She kept following Muhammad on social media, and when she saw the announcement of the Philly Birth Fund being available to Black mothers due that year she immediately applied.
“I was so stressed out…The Philly Birth Fund was able to give us the grant. At the time the midwives lowered their fee, because of the climate with many people struggling with income instability,” said Osibodu Booker. “The Philly Birth Fund was able to cover the difference, I was able to have the homebirth covered completely, I was able to have all the support I needed, and Asasiya who is one of our midwives we still work with today was phenomenal.”
Titilola Ogbeide, a certified professional midwife and the director of the Philly Birth Fund board, knows how much homebirth services are for her clients and how difficult it is for midwives to bring down the cost, because of everything it covers. That’s why she knows how important The Philly Birth Fund is to help keep home birth financially accessible to more families.
“There’s a lot of limitations on why people don’t have access to home births. Thank goodness for the Philly Birth Fund… it’s allowing us to bridge that gap between homebirth clients, Black families specifically, and midwives in Philadelphia,” said Ogbeide.
The Philly Birth Fund board has clear goals this year such as raising $50,000* and to start opening up applications for grants again. They hope to make the process as smooth as possible and easily accessible.
Osibodu Booker also points out that they want to make sure the process doesn’t have to make people expose their traumas, or be on their last dollars to be seen. “If you’re a Black woman in Philadelphia, and you decide to have a homebirth and if it’s safe for you to have one, the Philly Birth Fund is a home for you.”
Ogbeide notes they want to make the Philly Birth Fund an example of how other cities can tackle Black maternal health and accessibility to home birth. “We know that Philadelphia is not the only city where Black women are being disproportionately affected by racism. We really do want this to be a template or really a push for people to understand what is happening in their community,”said Ogbeide.
To learn more about the Philly Birth Fund, about home birth in general, to donate, and to learn about and support the midwives they work with, you can visit their website.
*Update: The Philly Birth Fund has reached their fundraising goal of $50,000 but you can still donate on their website.
Germantown Info Hub is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow at @brokeinphilly.