In 2013, before giving birth to her third child, Mimi Evans left her home state of Texas and traveled 1,300 miles in an RV to have a safe birth experience in another state. 

That long road trip was 10 years ago, but the fact that it could’ve easily happened today shows just how little has changed when it comes to maternal health issues—and how having the safe and quality birth experience every woman deserves sometimes means taking matters into your own hands. 

“I thought: ‘I’m not going to have my baby here in Texas in a medical center anymore,” Evans, now 36, and who identifies as Black, tells

Evans had previously given birth to two children at a hospital in Texas, but both times, she says she felt rushed, neglected, ignored and “on display,” she tells TODAY. “Thank goodness I did not have to do a C-section, but I do feel like I was given things that I did not necessarily want — like a shot of Pitocin,” she says. “I didn’t get a lot of choice in how I wanted my experience to be, and then immediately after I gave birth I was just cleaned up and sent off to a room to manage the whole postpartum period alone.”

For her third birth, Evans knew something needed to change. So she purchased a 32-foot RV and drove 1,300 miles to an RV park near a Virginia hospital with her former partner and two children. She lived there for two months, and then Evans gave birth at a Virginia hospital. 

She says she felt like it was the right decision for her. “I was given so much choice, so much freedom and it was just such a much more pleasant experience,” she says. 

But going to such great lengths to have a safe birth shouldn’t be necessary. Her experience ultimately drove Evans to become a doula and birth educator to shed light on the issue and support others in her community. She gave birth to her youngest baby in a home birth last year.

After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Evans said that she is scared that more pregnant people— especially Black women who have a higher risk for maternal mortality—will have to travel far like she did to give birth safely and get respectful prenatal care. Of course, not everyone will be able to pick up their lives and travel across state lines to find safe care. And in an ideal world, they shouldn’t have to—birthing people should be able to access quality care in a community near them. 

But the statistics on maternal mortality are grim. The U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among high-income nations. Maternal mortality refers to mothers dying from a pregnancy-related health issue (or an existing condition that gets worse with pregnancy). Maternal mortality statistics include those that happen while the woman is pregnant, or within the 42 days after she gives birth. 

In 2021, the number of U.S. women dying from pregnancy-related issues rose a whopping 40% from the year prior, a recent report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows, suggesting that the pandemic dramatically worsened the maternal mortality rate. And though the increase was significant across all racial and ethnic groups, Black women were at the highest risk: 2.6 times more likely to die than white women and 2.5 times more likely to die than Hispanic women. 

“Due to systemic racism and discrimination at the individual level, Black women and birthing people face unacceptable (and mostly preventable) risk during childbirth and throughout and after pregnancy,” writes The Century Foundation.

Findings released from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year found that 4 out of 5 pregnancy-related deaths are likely preventable.

Additionally, restrictive abortion laws could increase the maternal mortality rate even more: birthing hospitals are shuttering in some states, which reduces access, and some doctors are prohibited from providing certain procedures, like a D&C. It makes sense why some may feel forced to travel to hospitals with better reputations for patient care, but it’s also important to note that systemic racism and discrimination is built into systems that cross state lines. It’s not always possible to avoid those experiences, even if you do travel. But to Evans, it’s very clear that much more work needs to be done to make birthing safer for all—and that’s part of the reason why she became a doula and birth educator. 

“I wish that I could say ‘everything is getting better,’ but it’s very scary,” Evans says. “Roe v Wade really opened my eyes—my goodness, we could possibly be going backwards. That is very scary to me.”

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